Exchange Building - Seattle, WA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member NW_history_buff
N 47° 36.257 W 122° 20.072
10T E 550019 N 5272533
Quick Description: This historical plaque is monumented on the NE side of the Exchange Building on the corner of 2nd Ave and Marion St. in downtown Seattle, WA.
Location: Washington, United States
Date Posted: 3/12/2013 2:07:55 PM
Waymark Code: WMGJFQ
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 4

Long Description:
Wrap Text around ImagePassersby in downtown Seattle might notice a bronze plaque that hangs in front of the Exchange Building, an Art Deco-themed building with beautiful metal and woodwork ornamentation inside and outside of the structure. The plaque says the following:

Opened in May 1930, the Exchange Building
was designed to house more stock and
mercantile exchanges than any building in
the United States. It was constructed as one
of the tallest and largest reinforced concrete
structures in the world.

Designed in the Art Deco style, it features
architectural ornamentation unique to the
Pacific Northwest. Both lobbies and the
exterior of the building are protected by
the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board.

Renovated in 1999-2000, the building has
been both restored and modernized for
the new millennium.

There is also a lighted display inside the lobby that highlights more of the history of this beautiful building and the text from the display say the following:

1. John Graham Sr., architect of the Exchange Building, was one of Seattle's most prolific designers of large scale commercial and office buildings. Born in the Isle of Man and apprenticed in England, Graham arrived at the turn of the last century. Among his major works in downtown Seattle are the Bon Marche, The Roosevelt Hotel, Dexter Horton Building, The Bank of California (adjacent to the Exchange Building), Frederick and Nelson (now Nordstrom's), the Joshua Green Building and the Plymouth Congregational Church.

2. The Exchange Building was constructed in 14 months and extends from Second to First Avenue in an unusual "L" shape. Structurally, the building rises 278 feet above ground level, which made it the second tallest reinforced concrete structure in the United States at the time. As with other "skyscraper" type building of this period, a massive solidly grounded base structure lightens and narrows at the upper stories to a tower-like roofline. At grade, the building is faced in a polished granite. The rest of the building is faced in Romanite Stone, a cast stone product in an ochre color.

3. Formal Opening: The Exchange Building was created to house the city's produce, grain, ore and stock and bond market exchanges, to become the single largest exchange in one location in the United States. It was the last major downtown building built before the depression. Due to the stock market crash in October 1929, the dream was muted, although the building was still home for many commodity markets. The Merchant's Exchange occupied the first four floors, including the First and Second Avenue levels, with trading floors on floors two and four, with double height floors and balconies for spectators. At its opening, 80% of the cash deposited in Seattle was within two blocks of the Exchange Building.

The Exchange Building housed Pacific Northwest Bell from 1953 until 1977. In 1977, Metro became a major tenant, occupying through its merge with King County, over 85% of the building until 1999.

4. Detail of the building exterior: The architect chose to design an original set of stylistic motifs that were related directly to the Northwest market activities that were planned for the building. These images include fruit trees, grape vines, flowers and grains of wheat. The number of traditional motifs of the Art Deco period - the chevron, the basket of flowers, spirals and fern fronds - are made a part of the overall facade and interior decoration.

5. Original bronze letter box: There are original bronze cast letter boxes in both lobbies, which have similar ornamentation as applied to other surfaces such as the lobby directory frames and carved wood framed telephone booths.

6. Stained glass Fanlights details: The original colored and clear glass fanlights are an outstanding example of the thoughtfully conceived and executed modernistic craftsmanship. The two sets of fanlights skillfully combine to create a transition from daylight outside to darkened splendor of the black and gold ornamented inner lobby. The 2nd Avenue entry features bronze cast radiator grills along the foyer wall and impressive cast decorative panels above the doors.

7. Ornate Grandeur: Equal to any cast stone work in the modern era, this relief work features images that reflect the building's role as the mercantile exchange for the Northwest.

8. The Exchange Building in 2001, anchored in both the financial and historic districts of Seattle.

9. 1928 Art-Deco Maps: The sights and activities at the time of the Exchange Building's origin offer a fascinating insight to the interests of the day.

10. "The Exchange Building is topped off": This photo shows the final exterior layer of the building being added on the 23rd floor of the building, which houses elevator and mechanical equipment.

11. A Historical Marker: The Exchange Building experienced a sweeping modernization of its electrical, mechanical, fire and emergency systems in 1999-2000. Additional work done included the revitalization of the exterior facade and interior architecture.

12. 2nd Avenue Lobby Photo (1930): Protected as a Seattle Landmark, the grandeur of the lobby has many details to discover. The gold leaf ceiling, set off against polished black and gold veined marble walls, lend an ambiance of richness. The geometry of the gold leaf ceiling combines six-sided crystalline forms with rose and turquoise tinted gold spirals and patterned florals, bordered by layered bands of chevrons and flowers. The marble fluted pilasters incised with gold leafed rose capitals on each end of the grand lobby are remarkable. The bronze chandeliers in the photo have been recreated which allows for a subtle play of light and shadow as originally intended.

13. Scan of newspaper grand opening showing the Exchange Building and nearby buildings: This 1930 photo displays contemporary buildings nearby, notably the Dexter Horton Building, the King County Courthouse, the Hoge Building and the Smith Tower.

14. "The marble drinking fountain": This is a photo from the grand opening special segment in the Sunday Seattle Times, depicting an ornate marble drinking fountain once located on the trading floor level.

15. Detail of Freight Elevator: On 2nd Avenue, the cast bronze borders surrounding the elevator walls, consist of fruit branches interwoven with triangular/chevron styled motifs. On 1st Avenue, these borders have a distinctive abstract panel design. The freight elevator doors on both lobbies, feature a decorative cast bronze panel that were present on all elevators originally.

16. Elevator Operator: Originally, all nine elevators served all 12 floors, with operators in each car to move passengers and a "starter," in the 2nd Avenue lobby (the building's 4th floor), who would direct elevators to respond to hall calls. The elevator operators were replaced by an electronic dispatch system in 1961 and were fully modernized in 1998.

17. "Quotation Board of the Market Exchange": Imagine the activity in the trading pit, as men ran about buying and selling dozens of commodities, while spectators would watch from ornate balconies.

18. "The Exchange Building begins": This first recorded photo of the construction process (May 1929), shows the only structural steel in the building, to create the double height floor for the main trading area, known as the "pit," located on the building's 2nd floor.

19. Waterfront View: This photo shows the waterfront of Seattle in 1954, prior to the construction of the Norton Building (1959). The Exchange Building is center left in the picture.

20. Typical Floor Plan: The building's unusual "L" shape was created due to the bank building built to the south on 2nd Avenue. The original floor plan, was a series of offices along a corridor that followed the length of the floor, which was typical for the time. The original terrazzo floor surface along this corridor, is intact on all floors. The curved elevator lobby throughout the building, allowed tenants to see all elevator doors and their signals simultaneously. The elevator lobbies on each tenant floor feature golden decorative plaster ornamentation consistent with what is seen in the 2nd Avenue Lobby.


I highly encourage any visitor to pause and reflect at all the extremely ornate elements that exist in the lobby as well as on the outside of the building. It's a true marvelous partnership of art and architecture.

Marker Name: Exchange Building

Marker Type: City

Town name: Seattle

Date marker was placed: Unknown

Placer: Unknown

Related website: [Web Link]

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