The Federal Office Building


At a cabinet shop here, on June 6, 1889, a glue pot boiled over onto a wood stove. Strong winds spread the fire rapidly and the conflagration burned virtually all of downtown Seattle at the time, including the wharves and warehouses on the waterfront.

Businesses re-opened right away, working in tents, and property owners started rebuilding larger fire-proof buildings. It was this event that led to the generally similar building styles and materials seen in the Pioneer Square area to the south.

The Federal Building was constructed in 1933 in the Art Deco style. The setback tower topped with light-colored terra cotta is reminiscent of a snow-capped mountain. Decoration includes the pioneering use of aluminum spandrels between the floors and terra cotta panels representing federal agencies.

Listen to a podcast from the Downtown Walking Tour.

First Avenue and Marion Street (1.06mb mp3)

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

Jackson Federal Building
Jackson Federal 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