NOTES: In the General Information on page of this report, only the size and dimensions of Building No. 1201 are noted. The following data is provided for Building No. 1206:
Total Floor Area 6,545 square feet
1st Floor Area 5,740 square feet
Occupiable Area 5,015 square feet
Stories - 1
Perimeter 350 feet
Depth 62 feet
Height 30 feet
The site of Federal Center South (FCS) is a wedge-shaped property, presently consisting of nearly 46 acres in Seattle's south industrial area, with approximately 46 acres located along the Duwamish Waterway and East Marginal Way South. The 33-acre site contains GSA Building No. 1201 (WA0953KC) and GSA Building No. 1206 (WA0956KC) that made up the original 1930-1932 Ford Motor Company's Seattle Assembly Plant. The property also contains a new building recently constructed for the Seattle District Headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which replaced two non-historic former structures a warehouse (former Buildings 1202, WA0954KC), and small parking facility (Building 1203, WA0955KC). The new USACE building, which is situated to the northwest of Building No. 1201, opened in early October 2012. On the east side of East Marginal Way South there is a large paved parking lot on the remaining 13 acres.
The original property was selected by the Ford Company due to its location, which provided easy access for shipping by rail, vehicle or barge transportation, and close proximity to Boeing Field (presently the King County International Airport), which was under development, and the Port of Seattle. In particular, Ford anticipated delivery of completed vehicles to local markets and to Japan and the far Pacific from his Seattle and California factories. Ford developed the site with construction of a dock, rail lines, parking lots, and an assembly building designed for efficient manufacturing, along with a low-bay warehouse, high-bay craneway, a boiler room, multiple internal drive lines and second floor offices above a display showroom and formal entry.
When the Ford plant was constructed it was one of few industrial facilities in Seattle South Industrial Area. This area, once part of a vast tidal basin, had been filled between 1913 and 1920, and the Duwamish River straightened and dredged to create a deep channel. The Duwamish Waterway, with numerous slips, was created to promote construction of docks for ships and barges. This municipal effort was followed by construction of a new Spokane Street Bridge in 1929-30, and later by a new bridge to the industrial area of Harbor Island, and West Seattle. A historic 1927 map by the Seattle Engineering Department of harbor conditions at that time indicated proposed construction for the Seattle Terminal and Dock Company on the site of the future Ford Plant. (This project was not realized.)
By 1937 a map of the Duwamish Waterway shows the two buildings that made up the Ford Assembly Plant along with a few smaller industrial businesses: Jordan Terminals at the east end of Slip No. 1 and Pacific Mills and Wharf on the south side of it, and the Woodruff Boyce Seed Company to the east in a small building across East Marginal Way South at Hudson Street. Other businesses within a quarter-mile included Hamilton Lbr. Co., General Furn. Co., Kieckhefer Container Co., Seattle Export Mill Dock and Lbr. Co. Further south there were several larger facilities of the Patterson McDonald Shipyard at Slip No. 2 and the Boeing Airplane Co. Warehouse, part of its Plant No. 1 near Slip No. 4. Ford's confidence in building its assembly plant in this area anticipated future development.
After Ford closed its assembly plant, it was acquired by the federal government for military use. The site was released to the Army as the Seattle General Depot, and remained under its operations until 1956. In ca. 1941 the Army added a warehouse (former Building No. 1202, replaced recently by the USACE headquarters.) The property was occupied and used by the Boeing Company after World War II for its missile production program from ca. 1957 to 1973, while the USACE remained a primary tenant in Building No. 1201. GSA acquired the Ford Plant property in 1973, and soon afterwards renovated Buildings No. 1201 and No. 1206 for use as offices, shipping and warehouse spaces, and a vehicle repair facility. The property also served as a central location for federal agencies in the Seattle area, which used its dock for shipping federal materials to Alaska.
The former Ford Assembly Plant / Federal Center South site is surrounded on the west and south by the Duwamish Waterway, a straighten portion of the Duwamish River, which leads north to Elliott Bay. The waterway is accessible from a 50' wide by 600' long dock structure along Slip No. 1 on the south side of Building No. 1201. The dock is made up by reinforced concrete pilings and a concrete structural slab, large painted steel bollards and cleats, and a heavy timber bull rail. Rail spur lines extend the length of the dock, and once connected to other lines on East Marginal Way. Historic photographs indicate the presence also of railroad spur lines running in a curved line from the north along the east side of the site. These lines are not extant. Building No. 1206, the original Ford Plant Oil House, is located at the front (east) of the dock. Despite its location, the small Oil House is clearly subsidiary to Building No. 1201, although they share a similar historical significance and many architectural features.
Early photographs indicate the site was not landscaped with exception of a row of slender conifers along the east facade, and other rows around the deep east setback from East Marginal Way South. Currently, this setback contains lawns, plant beds with ground covers, shrubs and flowering shrubs, along with trees and hedges set within a chain link fence that separates the site from two railroad lines and the street. A portion of this front part of the site presently contains fenced areas with play equipment that serves as an on-site daycare facility.
A concrete and brick paved patio, enclosed by brick masonry walls and metal gates, is situated at the north end of Building No. 1201, where it is accessible from a cafeteria within the building. A visitor parking lot is situated to the east of the patio, while larger parking lots for tenant personnel are placed to the north of it. The main pedestrian entry to this building, on the south side near its northeast corner, is emphasized by a non-original addition -- a brick-clad Modern style pedestrian shelter that resembles a large porte cochere. The building is protected by the perimeter fencing and gates, the masonry terrace walls, along with large concrete planters.
BUILDING No. 1201 (WA0953KC, ORIGINAL FORD MOTOR COMPANY ASSEMBLY PLANT)
Federal Center South was designed by architect Albert Kahn as a Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant. Building 1201 expresses the recognizable features of his daylight factory type: a large rational, flat-roof structure made up by repetitive bays, with a linear layout based on assembly line production that provided flexibility and the opportunity for future expansion; integration of flexible electrical, mechanical and conveying systems; a complex building section with monitor roofs to provide ample daylight from clerestories and skylights; and large windows along spanning between perimeter pilasters. The 424,341 square foot building is highly visible from East Marginal Way South, and the most prominent structure on the site of Federal Center South due to its size and scale.
The L-shaped building was made up originally by a 750 foot long by 320 foot-deep two-story assembly plant, with offices in the northern portion of the second floor, a long low-bay warehouse section to the west, and an attached 100 by 500 foot craneway (high-bay warehouse) along the south end. Within the northeast corner of the craneway section there was a discrete, 60 by 62 foot boiler room. Clear ceiling heights, from floor to bottom of trusses, were set at 14 feet in the approximate 120,000 square foot first floor on the east side of the structure; 29.5 feet in the adjacent, approximate 120,000 square foot low-bay craneway area to the west; 14 feet on the second floor office areas; 38 feet in the 45,450 square foot high-bay craneway warehouse, and 29.5 feet in the boiler room.
An auto showroom was located originally within a tall space at the northeast corner. Executive offices, made up by an open general office area and suite of individual offices, were situated on the second floor above the showroom. They were accessed from the original first floor lobby via a formal open stairwell with marble treads and ornamental bronze railings. The assembly production line and office areas of the original plant presently contain two-stories of offices and service spaces. Both floors have an overall length of 750 feet, and are made up by 31 bays, each approximately 24 feet-wide.
After GSA acquired the Federal Center South property it renovated building in 1973-1974 to provide government offices. While changes to the historic Ford plant had been undertaken by prior occupants, the GSA project resulted in a number of significant modifications to the design. Perhaps the most significant of these was the revision to the building's entry that accessed the plant from the north facade, which became an entry to a new cafeteria, along with expansion of the main entry near the north end of the east facade and the vestibule and lobby spaces. Access to the current main entry is sheltered by a large, imposing and Modern-style concrete and masonry porte cochere. As part of the new work, an original cast-iron marquee over the double doors at the building's original entry was removed. A less ornamental but original sheet metal canopy remains over the former washing bay at the west end of the north facade, at the original employee entry to the Ford plant. Other building entries, made up by aluminum framed glazed doors, and painted solid steel doors have been inserted into pre-existing and new openings on the east and north facades of the office sections, and in the west facade of the low-bay warehouse section.
While the present second floor was remodeled to serve largely as open office spaces, the first floor was partitioned into a variety of office, meeting, conference and service spaces, along with multiple corridor systems, a new entry lobby with vestibule, and a cafeteria. The new spaces were partitioned and received with new finishes, including painted gypsum wallboard, suspended ceiling systems with acoustic ceiling tiles, resilient flooring and carpeting, and resilient base. Ceilings throughout the office areas were lowered. Extensive roof monitor clerestories in the low-bay and the high-bay craneway were largely retained, but skylights in the former assembly spaces were closed and covered on the interior by ceilings. New artificial lighting was added by installation of extensive fluorescent fixtures, which were typically recessed into suspended ceiling tile frames.
Other exterior changes included removal and replacement of the original, multi-paned, steel framed industrial sash windows on the primary building facades. These original windows had nearly filled the openings between the spandrels, and floor and ceiling framing, and provided the large building with a fine pedestrian-scaled feature. The new fenestration included aluminum framed windows with three vertical and three horizontal frames in each opening. The frames contain double-glazed window units in the lower frame section and opaque spandrel panels in a stepped composition at the middle and upper frames, which considerably reduced interior daylight. This fenestration was an effort also to modernize the historic buildings appearance, but to the detriment of its original character.
The original boiler room, located at the southeast end of the structure is a tall, single volume that retains most of its original character, including original industrial sash, steel frame windows, interior painted brick and tile finishes, along with some original plumbing and mechanical equipment. A prominent, 8 foot-diameter steel cylinder chimney rises 80 feet from the roof of the boiler room.
The present warehouse sections of the former Ford Company Assembly Building are strikingly original in character. The low-bay warehouse is a storage area that runs continuously along the west side of the original assembly area. This section exhibits the exposed steel trusses, column and beam structure, complex sawtooth-shaped roof monitors, sloped skylights, steel sash industrial windows and clerestories of the original design. In some areas, the overhead electrical drop cords and suspended HVAC units recall the systems of the original buildings storage and shipping functions. Most of this space still functions as a warehouse, with the exception of an area near the north end, where it has been subdivided and adapted as a fitness facility. At the far north end the original washing bay remains, presently used as a vehicle storage space.
The south-end high-bay warehouse section also retains most of the original character of the Ford plant. This tall, 100 foot by 500 foot area was constructed for operation with a craneway. It rises to a height of 38 feet, and is oriented with its length parallel to Slip No. 1 of the Waterway. As with the low-bay warehouse portion, this space is characterized by its open space, exposed steel framing, and sloped skylights set in a complex sawtooth monitor roof. Due to its placement on the site, the south end warehouse is structured with a concrete slab and piling foundation.
The exterior of Building No. 1201 includes brick walls and reinforced concrete and brick pilasters. The building is clad with wheat-colored, glazed brick with articulated brick dentils below the second floor window sills. It has stone sills, and stone parapet caps along the flat roof parapets, and granite trim. Ornamentation includes brick soldier and denticulate courses, and panels of varied brick masonry patterns.
Throughout a number of subsequent re-roofing projects, the original tile roofing has been retained on most of the building's sloped roof areas, while flat roofs have been re-roofed. Under a recent project the flat roof areas were re-roofed in 2010 with a "cool system" consisting of additional insulation, roofing membrane and a white-colored waterproof cap sheet, along with integrated photovoltaic solar panels.
BUILDING No. 1206 (WA0956KC, ORIGINAL OIL HOUSE)
The original Ford Factory Oil House, Building No. 1206 (WA956KC), is a single-story structure situated southeast of the original Assembly Plant. The 62 by 113 foot, 6,545 square foot structure was built to store heating fuel and had a capacity of 206,500 gallons. The present building contains a non-occupied basement, and is connected to the primary building by a 240 foot-long access tunnel. The building, oriented with its sides parallel to East Marginal Way, is set at the inner end of the Slip No. 1 of the Duwamish Waterway. It presents a very simple, almost archetypal form -- a rectangular mass with a gabled roof clad with dark red, cement composite tile.
Much smaller than the Assembly Plant, Building No. 1206 shares many of the larger building's architectural features. Exterior walls are constructed with the same 8 inch-thick unreinforced, wheat-colored brick masonry with cast stone trim and a capstone at the parapets. A circular, cast stone decorative element is placed flush with the masonry at the gable end walls. Windows include industrial sash consisting of painted steel frames set into the masonry, with multiple, true divided light units and single pane glazing, and newer anodized aluminum-framed units with simpler sash patterns, which date from the 1973-74 renovation project. The windows feature fixed and operating awning sections. Similar to those on Building No. 1201, the newer windows are in poor condition.
The structure is made up by 62 foot-long steel trusses, constructed from angle and plate stock with welded sections, with pre-cast concrete tile panels serving as infill between the structural steel purlins. The building is supported by a 24,465 square foot dock structure, constructed of 18 inch-square, reinforced concrete pilings and beams and a 9 inch-thick, reinforced concrete slab. The north portion of the building's first floor level is raised approximately three feet above grade to provide access to the concrete loading dock at the north end and part of the east side. Exterior steps to the loading dock are made of cast-in-place concrete with painted metal pipe handrails and guardrails. On-grade access to the building is provided at doors on the east and south sides.
The present interior dates largely from the 1970s. As part of the project the former boiler spaces were made into offices. The ceilings throughout were lowered, and finished with an acoustic tile system, while concrete panels from the original construction have been retained in the roof trusses above. The floor level at the southern portion is set at near grade, while the northern portion is set above at the loading dock level. An internal steel staircase was installed to connect the two floor levels.
New partitions were installed to provide both open and enclosed offices, and a kitchen area, restrooms and service rooms created. Interior finishes presently consist of painted wallboard and plaster walls, and carpet, resilient tile, and exposed concrete. Unfortunately, at least one wall in the northeast office appears to have been sandblasted to expose the texture of the common red brick wall infill material; cue to moisture infiltration this wall area is in poor condition and the bricks are spalling and show evidence of efflorescence. Typical lighting is provided by surface-mounted and recessed fluorescent fixtures.
Most of the original exterior features of Building No. 1206 have been preserved and it retains most of its original exterior appearance. However, the original clay roofing tiles have not been repaired; they are aged and covered with grime and a block-colored substance. Much of the brick masonry and cast stone trim is in poor condition, showing evidence of poor prior repairs as well as more recent damage, with spalls and cracks, and general grime. Damage is clearly visible at the southeast corner where it appears that the building has been hit by vehicles. Considerable efflorescence, indicating moisture trapped within the perimeter walls, is visible on the interior, particularly along the exposed brick masonry walls in the northwestern most office area. Leaks from the roof parapets have been an ongoing problem, resulting in rusted window frames and damaged window caulking in addition to damaged interior wall boards. Roofing repairs and replacement projects have been proposed, but at an estimated cost of $400,000, the re-roofing project has not been contracted.