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UW’s Gothic-style Eagleson Hall up for landmark status

The building started its life as a YMCA

Northwest Vernacular, via Seattle Department of Neighborhoods

One of the University of Washington’s characteristic Gothic buildings is up for landmark status: Eagleson Hall, an ornate, two-and-a-half-story building notable for its gables and stone ornaments—including a grand, stone archway at the entrance.

The hall was built under the reign of University president Henry Suzzallo and architect Carl Gould, founder of the UW’s architecture program. Gould had established a directive to construct all campus buildings in Collegiate Gothic, giving us buildings like the iconic Suzzallo Library (named for Suzzallo) and Anderson Hall.

With the UW’s campus growing, Suzzallo sought neighborhood cohesion by recommending all University District buildings be built in Collegiate Gothic style. Developers listened—this is how we ended up with so many elaborate frathouses and ornamented apartment buildings.

One of the organizations to take Suzzallo’s cue was the YMCA, which originally built Eagleson Hall as one of its facilities. It was sited just off-campus to avoid restrictions on religious buildings on a public university campus (the C for “Christian” was a bigger deal in those days), but with a strong blessing from Suzzallo and with Gould designing the building.

Eagleson Hall was named for Jimmy Eagleson, a former UW student and University YMCA leader who died during World War I—and “yell king” at sporting events, a kind of proto-cheerleader. The facility broke ground in 1922, a few years after his death, and opened its doors in 1923. It would stay a YMCA for the next 40 years.

In the 1960s, maintenance costs had gotten to be out of hand—so UW purchased the building and the YMCA moved to a new facility on 19th (it’s now home to student religious group The Sanctuary, and the YMCA is down on 12th). By 1965, the building had been retrofitted as classrooms—even adding an extra floor by subdividing a former auditorium—and is now home to the School of Social Work, which moved to Eagleson in 1966, and the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences.

The landmark nomination was submitted by the UW’s Capital Planning and Development in consultation with Northwest Vernacular, a historic preservation consulting firm.

The Landmarks Preservation Board will consider the nomination at its May 15 meeting.