Walruses Downtown

Much of the history of modern Seattle can be traced back to the expansion of the town through the Klondike Gold Rush. Years later many veterans of this gold rush would return to Seattle with a golden twinkle in their eye and walruses in their memories. Then in 1908 the wealthy gold diggers would form the first Arctic Club on 3rd Avenue and Jefferson Street. After a short few years they would come to commission their own building a few blocks down on the corner of Cherry and 3rd Ave. The building would be designed by A. Warren Gould in 1916. Here they would put walruses right on the facade!

c.a. 1917 photo of the Arctic Building on 3rd ave and Cherry st.

The building would remain a center for the club until the late 1970s where it would soon become a historic building of Seattle and be registered for the National Register of Historic Places. As of now it stands as an interesting trademark of the “golden” past of Seattle as well as a fancy hotel with cool bar. The building itself has had its own interesting past as a center for the Arctic Club as well as others, but also was the site of the suicide of U.S. Congressman Marion Zioncheck in 1936. The building is also said to be one of the go to haunted locations in Seattle.

The building has nine floors with a beautiful dome room in the back corner, which is commonly used for weddings. The elegance and posh intend for this building continue today while the walruses continue to watch Seattle around it.

The walrus

From school to community center: Still a place of education

In 1892, the Bay Side Addition sold land to the Seattle school council to build an elementary school. As population increased in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, a new building was erected alongside of the first to accommodate more students. This second building is the focus of this post.

Beacon Hill Elementary School, 1904

The 1904 building can hold 400 students. But by 1926, the school again was overcrowded with 800 children. Portables were brought to make more room as parents demanded a new school. Finally, in March of 1971, the elementary students walked five blocks to their new school. Over the next year and a half, the neighborhood and city debated about what to do about the property. A group of Chicanos asked to view the building as possible buyers. Once inside, they staged a sit as they had spent months prior trying to negotiate with the school council their pitch for the building, a community center for people of color.

El Centro celebrates 10 years The Seattle Times, October 1982

The social justice movement of the time inspired this group as Native American peoples occupying Fort Lawton in 1970 to restore their treaty rights of fighting in Washington. By the end of 1972, the city of Seattle leased the group the building for $1 a year until they officially bought the building in 1999. It became known as El Centro de la Raza and since its establishment has helped various communities by providing bilingual services, building apartments complex for low to mid income families and holding cultural events.