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Summary for 2401 UTAH AVE / Parcel ID 7666207220 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: Sears & Roebuck & Co., (Seattle store) Common Name: Starbucks SODO Center
Style: Commercial - Chicago School, Modern - International Style Neighborhood: Duwamish
Built By: Year Built: 1912

Architect: George C. Nimmons for 1916 building.

Now part of the Starbuck’s Center complex in SODO, two early buildings were designed and constructed early on for Sears and Roebuck, the mail order company. Neither is intact, but both buildings have been restored with care.

The first Sears and Roebuck mail order plant was built in Chicago in 1906 and designed by George C. Nimmons, a Chicago architect. As the company expanded, it opened branches to serve specific regions within the country. The first of these branches, which was to serve the southwest, opened in Dallas, Texas. Not long after, in 1910, the first Seattle Sears and Roebuck office was established in the Armour Building. This building, since demolished, was once located near the Railroad tracks at 3rd Avenue South and Jackson Street, in what is now the Pioneer Square Historic District.

A few years after, in Seattle, Sears and Roebuck decided to build its own building, south of its first location, in the Tidelands area. Again, the proximity of rail tracks was crucial in the siting of the new building, as well as for subsequent buildings. Located off of Lander Street, this is the most southern of the two buildings. Simple and utilitarian on its exterior, it was built between 1912 and 1913. The ground level was mainly devoted to the shipping, receiving and checking of merchandise. In particular, mail was processed on the east side of the building, because of the availability of good natural light for reading. Executive offices were also located on the east side of the building on an upper floor. Other functions within the building included the wrapping of merchandise, clothing alteration and storage. 

George C. Nimmons, the Chicago architect, designed the neighboring building, which is more notable in terms of architectural design. The 1915 building includes the showpiece tower, which also accommodated required water storage for a sprinkler system. Insurance underwriters generally required the stored water to be elevated above most of the rest of the building and the tower was an easy solution to this problem. According to Nimmons, this building was designed as a self-contained mail order house. A Sanborn map from 1915 shows that, at the ground level, the 1912-1913 building accommodated functions such as receiving and checking, as well as mail processing. The ground level of the 1915 building accommodated packaging and weighing, located near the Colorado Avenue side of the building, as well as a pneumatic tube central station and administrative office at the front of the building along Utah Street. The upper levels of the 1915 building were designed as an H plan. According to Nimmons, the middle of the H included offices and bathrooms, while the rest of the H was left open for “storage and merchandizing purposes.”

George Nimmons, sometimes working in architectural partnerships with others, was responsible for Sears and Roebuck mail order plants in many other United States cities, including: Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. Born in 1865, he received an associate bachelor’s degree from the University of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. After travel and study in Europe, he worked for the architecture firms Burnham and Root and D. H. Burnham and Company, between 1887 and 1898, before becoming more independent.

During the 1920s, Nimmons was called upon to refashion part of the complex, specifically several floors of the 1912-13 building, for the new Sears’ department store. The design was remarkable for its lack of windows, which had been removed from the design by the interior designer on the project, Les Janes. The retail store opened in 1925. There was further expansion of the complex, with the construction of buildings in1946 and in 1966. The Sears store closed its doors in 1987. Nitze Stagen acquired the complex in late 1990. The Nisqually Earthquake of February 2001 damaged all the buildings very badly. In particular, the 1915 building was completely reclad in new brick, which is red, rather than the original buff color, although the lighter trim was maintained. The screen, which covered up the windows of the 1912-13 building, was also removed.

Additional Sources.

Heather MacIntosh, Building a Legacy: The  Story of the Starbuck’s Center Building, Nitze-Stagen: Seattle, New York, 2004.


The complex includes two early buildings, in addition to two later buildings from the 1940s and 1960s, respectively set on a larger lot located between Utah Avenue South and Colorado Avenue South. The southern boundary of the lot is along S Lander Street and the northern boundary along S Stacy Street. The main façade is along Utah Avenue South, but clearly visible and accessible from First Avenue South. Parking and other open spaces are set between Utah Avenue and First Avenue South. The two earlier buildings are of particular interest.

The first building, built between 1912 and 1913, has a south elevation along Lander Street. It has a rectangular plan, as well as flat roof and parapet. Exterior walls are of reinforced concrete, with a buff brick veneer. The elevations, and particularly the main façade of the building, feature slightly recessed bays, separated by engaged piers. On the main façade, each bay consists of a row of three double-hung windows, mostly replacement windows. Formerly, the ground level openings featured storefront bays, each surmounted by a transom, composed of about eight panes, some of which were operable. Each storefront bay surmounted a series of three separate basement level openings.

The second building, completed in 1915, has exterior brick walls, with tall vertical pilasters, separating the bays. It has a roughly rectangular plan, approximately 240 feet by 320 feet, with slight projections at the main façade. The main façade, approximately 240 feet in length, has a symmetrical composition, featuring a slightly projecting central tower, which rises above the rest of the elevation. To each side of the tower, there are three recessed bays, with a row of four double-hung windows at each floor. To each side of this, two end bays, project out slightly and in plan, they are in line with the central tower.  Each bay is composed of a row of three double-hung windows.

Especially in the case of the recessed bays between the tower and the end bays, vertical pilasters step back near the parapet. The tops of these pilasters have trim in a white material, which was formerly terra cotta.  Similar trim adorns the edges of the spandrels between windows, as well as the tops of pilasters that end about one floor below the parapet level. This building, which suffered greatly during the Nisqually Earthquake of 2001, was entirely reclad in 2002. New brick, made from the same clay deposits in Newcastle, Washington as the original brick, was installed. The new brick appears to be more reddish in color than the original, which appeared buff colored. Precast concrete, as well a new composite material, both in a white color, replaced the white terra cotta trim. The main entry has also been redesigned. It includes new steps, new wood double doors, a new glass awning, as well as the Starbuck’s mermaid logo set in new cladding above the main entry.

Starbuck’s signature mermaid logo has also been added at the top of the new tower, whose clock face was also rebuilt.

Detail for 2401 UTAH AVE / Parcel ID 7666207220 / Inv # 0

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Site District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Concrete, Metal, Other, Terra cotta Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Business Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Mixed No. of Stories: Various
Unit Theme(s): Commerce, Community Planning/Development
Changes to Plan: Slight
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Changes to Original Cladding: Moderate
Storefront: Extensive
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.

Photo collection for 2401 UTAH AVE / Parcel ID 7666207220 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Jan 10, 2010

Photo taken Jan 10, 2010

Photo taken Jan 10, 2010
App v2.0.1.0