On Mid-Century Mundane we tend to focus on small-scale commercial architecture, one of the most overlooked typologies. But sometimes there are residential buildings that we are drawn to and La Mirada is one of them.
La Mirada is an apartment building, built in 1956, at 1120 NE 43rd Street that now serves as off-campus housing, adjacent to the University of Washington. Its exterior corridors and bright color scheme seem more suitable to a Southern California motel, but its a welcome exception here.
The varying shades and textures of stone blocks on the corners and the stairwell with original metal-framed windows also add to the character. Very little on the exterior seems to have been updated, although older photos show a dark brown color in place of the 1970s orange that now gives this building a little pop.
The City Church is next door to Seattle Labor Temple, featured in our last post. It is fitting because this building was originally the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 46 Union Hall. It was renovated in 2005 for City Church, a large local religious organization.
The design of the building is more of the 1940s stripped classicism similar to the Seattle Labor Temple and the Seattle First National Bank branches. The entrance is the central element with a convex facade of large walls of glass and minimalist concrete columns and framing. The two side wings are square with fairly typical casement windows. The building was built in 1949 by Harmon & Detrich, which became the more prominent Harmon, Pray & Detrich later.
The Seattle Labor Temple in the Belltown neighborhood is an early modern structure, accommodating numerous functions for union organizing including office space, an auditorium, and meeting rooms. This area of Belltown has several union-affiliated structures including some that will be highlighted here later. The labor council seems to be a good steward to the building and it is highly intact on both interior and exterior. The building was noted on a list in 2011 as a potential landmark but it’s unclear if the city ever moved forward on designation.
It was built in 1942 to designs of McClelland & Jones. The firm dissolved later that decade and both went on to have other fruitful partnerships. Harmon, Pray & Detrich, another locally prominent firm, added a third story to part of the complex in 1955, as the need for space grew. The minimal detailing is similar and the variation in brick color between the floors is not immediately apparent.
The design of the complex is understated with brick cladding in warm tones of red, orange and yellow. The pale green panels and trim around the windows and entrance are actually terra cotta, noted in several sources as an unusually late application in Seattle. The blade sign on one corner dates to the 1950s.
Today’s entry is the Olympia Branch of the Seattle First National Bank from 1959 and located at 210 5th Street W; earlier this week we covered a similar branch in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. The architects were McClelland & Osterman, a Seattle-based firm.
This building is one of many in a well-researched self-guided walking tour on Olympia mid-century architecture. According to the guide:
“This bank building is one of several similar structures built across the state by Seattle First National Bank in the 1950s. The design was initially developed by Seattle architect John Maloney. The Seattle architectural firm of McClelland & Osterman then adapted Maloney’s design to conditions in Olympia. The New Formalist style building has an exterior of Roman brick, skinnier and longer than normal bricks. The building also features a curtain wall of multi-pane windows set in a slightly projecting rectangular concrete bay window and a curved cast stone entry portal. Inside the main entry is a mosaic tile mural depicting the legislative building on the Capitol Campus.”
This bank at 2010 Market Street NW in Ballard dates from 1951. The bank represents a typology from the late 1940s and early 1950s when classical design was morphing into a more modern appearance. Banks, especially in urban areas, sometimes exhibit this New Formalist style. Unfortunately the awnings detract from the overall simplicity of the design, but otherwise it remains relatively unaltered.
The architect of the Ballard Branch is most likely John W. Maloney, given the building’s extreme resemblance to Maloney’s landmark Denny Way Branch from a year earlier.
On a side street across from the Swedish Medical Center is this wonderfully intact Wrightian building medical office from 1955. Its flat roof planes, strong horizontality, recessed entrance and materials of brick and stone all speak in a Frank Lloyd Wright-design vocabulary. I was not able to identify the architect and hope someone out there might know? As it is currently for sale and situated just off the main thoroughfare in Ballard, I hope it finds a sympathetic owner who appreciates the uniqueness of the structure.
Carter Volkswagon has been owned by the same family since its founding in 1960 and I assume that this building dates from approximately that time. It’s an intact auto showroom and dealership clad in buff brick with original show windows (small by today’s standards) on the corner and a nice entrance overhang.
There is also an office section in the middle. The final section includes the show lot and repair bays entered through a double-height, flat-roofed canopy.