Friday, March 26, 2021

Franklin High School Seattle

West facade from S Mt Baker Boulevard

West facade

Southwest corner

Southwest entrance

South facade

Detail of ornamentation

Northwest entrance.  Photos taken in 2018

Franklin High School (3013 S Mt Baker Blvd) was designed by Edgar Blair (District Architect, Seattle Public Schools, 1910-1918).  The 4th school built as a high school in Seattle, it is a fine example of the Beaux Arts style, a type of Neoclassical/Greek Revival architecture.  The school is 4 stories tall.  Franklin High School opened in 1912 with 2.2 acres of land on the west slope of Mt Baker Ridge.  It was said to be the most beautiful school building west of the Mississippi.  While that may have been excessive praise then, it was certainly no longer true after a modern & utilitarian addition covered the west facade, overlooking the Rainier Valley, in 1958.  An addition closely matching the original architecture had been made on the south side of the building in 1925.  A 4.13-acre athletic field was added in 1916, 10.6 acres were added in 1925 & 12.7 more acres were added in 1942. 

In 1982, an engineering study warned that the building was vulnerable to earthquake damage. The school board voted in 1986 to demolish it. Students, alumni & Mt Baker neighborhood residents protested that decision. Seattle's Landmarks Preservation Board designated Franklin High School as a historic landmark & denied the request to tear it down. 

In the City of Seattle, a building, object, or structure may be eligible to be listed as a historic landmark if it is more than 25 years old and the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board determines it fits one or more categories.  Franklin High School met 3 categories: 1. It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, period, or a method of construction. 2. It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder. 3. Because of its prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, or scale, it is an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood.

Bassetti Architects completed a renovation of Franklin High School in 1990 with seismic, safety, mechanical, & electrical upgrades. They removed the unattractive 1958 addition that covered the beautiful west facade & turned the space behind the arched windows into a student commons. An addition was built in the center of the U-shaped building with a new wall on the east side.  A new auditorium & classrooms filled that space. Other new additions were more classrooms, science labs, art studios, vocational tech labs & a media center.  The rehabilitation inspired other school districts to preserve landmark schools.  Awards included the 2001 Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Award of Merit; 1991 AIA Seattle, Award of Commendation; and 1991 Association of King County Historical Organization, Project Award.  

Bassetti Architects also restored the building's entire facade in 2015. That included the replacing damaged terra cotta tiles & corroded steel anchors, pinning with seismic anchors, re-pointing of mortar, & repairing the cornice.


Friday, March 12, 2021

Occidental Square Park Seattle

The Weyerhaeuser headquarters, offered for sale in 2020.

The old information kiosk, now gone.

Photos above taken in 2017

Photos above taken in 2018

Occidental Square (117 Washington St) is a city park covering 0.6 acres at the center of  Pioneer Square in Seattle, entirely paved with bricks & concrete pavers.  It was cobbled together when 2 blocks of Occidental Avenue S were closed to vehicular traffic & joined with half a city block behind the Grand Central Building, that had been a parking lot.  That happened in 1971, during the general renovation of Pioneer Square, Seattle's oldest neighborhood.  Dozens of mature shade trees now stand in graveled wells.  The park has 4 monumental sculptures (2 are totem poles) carved from cedar in the northwest coast native style.  A tasteful children's play area was added in 2019.  Construction of a wood & glass pavilion began in June of 2020 & was expected to be completed in Spring 2021.  It will cover a 30-by-90-foot area with a glass canopy supported by timber beams & steel columns. This sleek shelter will have an information center & can be used as an outdoor classroom, stage, or covered seating area. Events, such as a weekly crafts fair, live music, food trucks & art installations are normally scheduled during the summer, when you can also find tables & chairs, ping pong tables & a giant chess set during more quiet times of the week.  The Grand Central Building, a historic building with ground floor retail, opens onto the park.  Facing the park on the opposite side, is an elegant modern building of brick & glass built by the Weyerhaeuser Company as its new headquarters in 2016.  Many shops & restaurants can be found nearby.  Some flank the single block of Occidental Ave, now known as Occidental Mall (between S Main St & S Jackson St) closed to cars, nicely paved in brick & lined with historic buildings.