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The “Eye-Stopper” in Eastlake is Landmarked

On Wednesday, June 15, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously to designate the Steinhart Theriault & Anderson Office Building at 1264 Eastlake Ave. E. an official Seattle Landmark; it had always been an unofficial one.

“It’s quite literally a landmark as you turn that bend from Fairview Ave. coming around that corner,” noted one board member before the vote. “This is just really what stands out.”

Also described as a “real eye-stopper” by Pacific Architect & Builder magazine in September 1960 a few years after it appeared on the Eastlake landscape, the building became a billboard for the architecture firm of Steinhart Theriault & Anderson who designed it and had it constructed in 1956, and then moved their offices into it. “Furthermore, motorists traveling between downtown Seattle and the northeast section virtually ‘look over the shoulders’ of the architects at their drafting boards,” wrote Pacific Architect & Builder.

To be designated a Seattle landmark, a building must meet at least one of the LPB’s six categories for consideration. The Steinhart Theriault & Anderson Office Building met three:

  • It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction.
  • It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder.
  • Because of its prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, or scale, it is a easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood or the City and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood or the City.

Susan Boyle, who wrote the 27-page nomination, laid out in her presentation to the board how the building fit all three categories.

Along with other architects of the 1950s and 60s, Steinhart Theriault & Anderson designed many of the buildings that would become recognized as Pacific Northwest Modern design. “Experiments in a way,” noted Boyle, “that have really carried forward to this day. The kind of innovation from the 1950s that gave rise to that big explosion of talent in the [1962] World’s Fair.”

The LPB also recognized the current owner and their thoughtful maintenance of the property. The owner did not oppose the designation but did highlight the economic sacrifice it meant. The committee listened and discussed pushing forward the concept of Transfer of Development Rights (or TDR) citywide. They also stated that they are often willing to grant requests for property improvements that respect the landmark status.

“There’s a synergy between the simplicity of this building and the prominence both on the site and the neighborhood as a whole,” said a board member summing things up, “that I think is really poetic in a way. This building is of an era where upstart architects could afford to buy a small plot of land and build these wildly experimental buildings.”

Written by Judy Smith

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