The Arctic building

{Downtown}

Seattle has retained a strong connection to its northern neighbor of Alaska, from the turn of the century’s gold rushes to the popular television show The Deadliest Catch. The Arctic Building was built in 1917 as the headquarters of the Arctic Club, a social and business organization promoting Alaska. Because of its size, the building also housed offices and numerous other groups; in the 1970s-90s it was used as city offices.; It has now been restored and converted to a hotel displaying some of the original club artifacts.

The steel-and-reinforced-concrete building is clad with cream-colored terra cotta tiles and elaborate ornaments. The extensive accents in blue and peach-colored terra cotta attracted considerable attention--no other downtown building was as colorful. The most eye-catching feature is the band of extraordinary terra cotta walruses at the third floor level, clearly conveying the Alaska connection.

Originally, a large terra cotta polar bear graced the club entrance on Cherry Street, but this was removed long ago (perhaps for earthquake safety). The club's original dining room features a large stained glass dome; this room is now called the Northern Light Dome Room and is used for weddings and other special events.

Listen to a podcast from the Downtown Walking Tour.

Second Avenue and Cherry Street (1.42mb mp3)

Find this building on our walking tour map. (680kb pdf)

Arctic Building, 1917
Arctic Building, photo by Joe Mabel

About us

This site is dedicated to the history of Seattle's downtown and waterfront, especially the State Route 99 / Alaskan Way Viaduct corridor. It was developed by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration as an educational resource and as part of a Memorandum of Agreement for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (pdf 1mb).

Copyright 2011 Washington State Department of Transportation