The art deco, beaux arts and neoclassical style building in Seattle’s South Lake Union area was completed in 1931 and declared a city landmark in 1996.
Wreckers took another bite out of history as demolition continued at the old Seattle Times building in South Lake Union.
Under a plume of water from a fire hose to keep down the dust, workers used concussive rams and specialized pincers Thursday to rip down the building’s northwest corner. Down the block, an old newspaper printing press waited for the scrapper on a loading dock.
“Cast iron and steel for scrap, it’s all just dollars and cents now,” said a worker, shooing a reporter away for safety’s sake.
Reporters’ and editors’ desks and chairs, piled in railroad-car-sized refuse containers, had already been hauled away. The loading dock where papers used to be stacked, fresh for reading, was holed out, and the newsroom’s ceiling was visible, hanging in pieces through gutted windows.
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Other windows in what used to be the cafeteria on the Fairview Avenue North side of the building — where workers from the early shift had breakfast after putting out the now long-gone afternoon edition of the newspaper — have been sealed with plywood. The building has been routinely used by squatters.
The newspaper switched to morning-only publication in print on March 6, 2000.
The park across from the building’s front, used for decades by the public and employees for snoozes and lunches, is fenced off. Only the crows use it now, and the hummingbirds that still frequent the trees visible through the barrier of chain link.
Most of the park on the northeast corner of that block will be preserved.
The hands on the clock on the building’s corner at Fairview and John Street is permanently stopped at 2:40, the digital clock below it dark. Underneath, the newspaper’s motto still declaims: “Since 1896.”
Demolition actually began months ago, notes Bryan Stevens, a spokesman for the City of Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. Asbestos and other hazardous materials have already been removed, according to the city.
The landmark building was completed in 1931 in what was then a working-class residential district, far enough from the traffic of the central business district to be easily accessible for workers and deliveries. The art deco, beaux arts and neoclassical style includes limestone panels, enhanced with floral and fluted designs. The entire south and east facades of the building are to be preserved. It was declared a city historic landmark in 1996.
It was one of several buildings built by The Times’ founding family, the Blethens.
Alden Blethen, great-grandfather of the newspaper’s current publisher, Frank Blethen, built a triangular building that was home to the paper near Westlake Park.
“It was on edge of town,” Frank Blethen wrote in an email Thursday. “In 1930, his son moved to Fairview and Denny. Which was beyond the edge of town. Ironic the 1915 building is a standing icon and the “new” building is being torn down.”
The architect of the building at Fairview and John was Robert Chambers Reamer, born in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1872. His other notable buildings in Seattle from the same era include the Skinner Building, the 5th Avenue Theatre and the Great Northern Building. Outside of Seattle, Reamer is also known for the Lake Quinault Lodge in the Olympic National Park, the Fox Theater in Spokane, the Bellingham Hotel and the Lewis and Clark Hotel in Centralia, according to the city’s Department of Neighborhoods.
At least one more public meeting must be held to review the design of the new building rising in the old Seattle Times building’s place, as the developer, the Onni Group, in Vancouver, B.C., navigates the city’s process for landmark structures.
It will be another four to six months before final design decisions are made, Stevens said.
The proposal, as it stands today, could allow two towers containing up to 915 residential units, and 74,000 sq. ft. of retail space. Parking for 1,422 vehicles would be located below ground.
The Seattle Times sold the building, the newspaper’s third location in its history, and moved to rented offices at Boren Avenue and Denny Way — across from Amazon’s headquarters. The sale was made to the Onni Group in 2013, after the paper moved to its present location in 2011.