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The Broad Street Substation is now a city landmark

The concrete campus by the Seattle Center is still an active Seattle City Light facility

The Space Needle viewed from the substation in 1962.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, item No. 78937

In early March, the Seattle City Council approved city landmark status for the Broad Street Substation, a Seattle City Light facility just west of State Route 99 near Seattle Center. The property, built in phases between 1949 and 1951, was deemed significant by the Landmarks Preservation Board back in 2017.

A landmarks preservation ordinance, which the board drafts after approving a landmark, lays out exactly which portions of the facility will be protected. In this case, the exteriors of both buildings on the property—the Control Building, which runs along Sixth Avenue N, and the Crane Building, which tucks in around Broad and Harrison—are under the scope of the landmark, along with a switchyard tower next to the Crane Building.

The two concrete buildings were built in a Moderne-influenced style, which was common for City Light buildings during the time. The board cited both their architectural appearance and significance in Seattle history as reasons for the nomination.

The substation in 1950.
Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, item No. 23393

Architect Ivan M. Palmaw designed these and many other buildings for City Light, including Columbia, Magnolia, First Hill, and Bothell. Palmaw immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1929, and also designed the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Capitol Hill and St. Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral in the Cascade neighborhood, just east of what most know as South Lake Union now. Both cathedrals have dramatic Byzantine designs with traditional onion domes, in colorful contrast to their neighborhood surroundings.

The University of Washington’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation called the 1942-built Renton Fire Station, now the Renton History Museum, his “most celebrated work.”

While landmark status comes with a specific approval process for changes, but City Light, which still operates out of the facility, signed off on the nomination—it also comes with some code differences that will make preservation easier, said the Department of Neighborhoods in a blog post.