The White Building was the first of many substantial constructions put up by the Metropolitan Building Co. on acres leased from the UW to build its "city within a city."

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The original negative for this construction photo tells us that this is the “White Building Site” on Jan. 30, 1908. If you were the photographer of this scene, you would have been standing near the curb of Fourth Avenue and Union Street, at the northern border of the University of Washington’s original campus, and looking southeast into the excavation pit for the White Building. The White was the first of many substantial constructions put up by the Metropolitan Building Co. on acres leased from the UW to build its “city within a city.”

A few men are standing on the new Fifth Avenue on the far side of the pit. A half-block east of there, the old Fifth was an alley-sized street that marked the eastern border of the campus and is here implied by the row of rental clapboards that face it. These homes used to look into the loved landscaping of the old campus. In the smaller, shallower pit between the row of homes and the new Fifth Avenue sits the Skinner Building since 1927 with its sumptuous 5th Avenue Theatre.

The original campus sat on a hillock named Denny Knoll after Arthur Denny, who contributed most of the 10 acres to the campus. In 1905, 10 years after the campus had moved north to its present “Interlaken” location, the knoll was still a green sward dappled with small pines, larger maples and a few structures, including the original territorial university building from 1861.

Regrading of the campus began in 1907 and continued at intervals into 1911. At Fourth Avenue and Seneca Street the knoll was dropped 22 feet in 1907, while two blocks north — here at Fourth and Union — there was no change in elevation.

“Washington Then and Now,” by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through www.washingtonthenandnow.com ($45) or through Tartu Publications at P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.