The Arctic Building is associated with one of the lesser-known facets of the Klondike gold rush--the formation of social institutions for the men who returned from the Yukon gold rush after "striking it rich." Though most who headed north found no gold, a small percentage did return to Seattle with more than just memories. The Arctic Club, originally located in the Morrison Hotel, provided an exclusive social community for those Seattlites who had returned from the Alaska Gold Rush with money in their pockets and a repertoire of stories to tell about their adventures in the Yukon. In 1916, they commissioned A. Warren Gould, one of the city's most prominent architects, to design the building that would become their institution's new home.
Gould created an eight-story building true to the club's origins: fine Alaskan marble covered its main corridors and walrus heads ran around the third-floor exterior. The Arctic Building was one of the earliest to use terra cotta panels placed over a steel reinforced concrete frame; however, unlike other early users of this technique (such as the Hoge Building), the Arctic Building sported not just off-white panels but also used submarine blue and orange-brown. The club's elegant interior included a ladies' tea room, private dining rooms, billiard and card rooms, a bowling alley, barber shop and private roof garden. The formal dining room, however, was always the focal point of the club, its stuccoed ceilings, which were artistically frescoed, the ornamented cornices and beautiful chandeliers speak of the rich history and foundations of this building. From its opening, the building also offered commercial space, but now offices have taken over the entire building including those floors once reserved for Arctic Club members. Despite its new use, the Alaskan marble and sculptured walrus heads still proclaim the building's origins--one part of the prosperity Klondike gold brought to Seattle.
The Arctic Building is located a block north of the Pioneer Square-Skid Road Historic District at 306 Cherry St. The building is open to the public during regular business hours.
Photograph by Florence K. Lentz
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