From 18 stories up, you can follow Westlake Avenue for miles, and Seattle’s growth for decades.
FROM HIS CLIMB to the cornice of the 18-story Medical Dental Building, Jean Sherrard has thoughtfully returned with some frosting: one of the building’s crowning terra-cotta ornaments. Peeking at the bottom-right corner of the “Now” photo, resembling a lampshade, it is one small part of the building’s elegant skin.
First imagined by its mix of professional (physicians and dentists) developers as a “real medical center in Seattle,” the polished and ornate Medical Dental Building was dedicated in 1925. With its ceramic tile cladding and more, the tower would be interpreted as an example of the late Gothic Revival, which, as it turned out, was a style about to lose its popularity.
Looking north from its tower, Westlake Avenue can be followed to Denny Way, where it elbows slightly to the northeast to complete its arterial duty to Westlake and eventually Eastlake at the south shore of Lake Union. Westlake was sided by the triangular blocks and buildings fashioned in 1906-07, when it was cut through from Pike Street to Denny Way. Its landlords briefly named this new and direct approach to the north “The Big Funnel.”
The decorative ornament encourages us to extend our short review of the architectural history of this retail neighborhood at the north end of Seattle’s central business district. It began in earnest in the early 1880s, with a few retailers scattered about the slopes of the then-clear-cut Denny Hill.
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