Saving a Seattle Gem: Renovating Ford McKay and Pacific McKay Buildings

When Vulcan nominated the Ford McKay and Pacific McKay buildings for landmark status in 2006, they were protecting a significant piece of Seattle’s automotive history. Unbeknownst to many passersby, William Osborne McKay’s automobile shop and glamorous terra-cotta-clad showroom were the impetus for Seattle’s thriving auto row that, by 1939, boasted over 40 automobile-related businesses within a 12 block radius. As Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood undergoes its next transformation into a thriving center for high tech business and groundbreaking research, it is tting that these two long-neglected buildings are recognized for their role in the area’s rst boom time.

After years of multiple ownerships, modifications and lots of wear and tear, these two buildings weren’t much to look at, going unnoticed – despite the fact that they sat in the midst of one of Seattle’s busiest streets. If Vulcan had not sought official landmark protection from the City, they would have met a very different fate in the 2009 Mercer Corridor recon guration.

Instead, in 2008, Vulcan promised to deconstruct the buildings piece by piece and place them into storage for safekeeping. Seven years later on June 10, 2015 when the buildings were all but forgotten, the massive tarp shrouding Vulcan’s newest construction site dropped, revealing a blast from the past. It was so sparkling clean you almost expected to see Mr. McKay pull up in his shiny new 1922 Ford.

The flawless incorporation of the two 1900-era landmarks into the modern, futuristic Allen Institute is the result of skill and hard work. There was much more than meets the eye to this intricate, mind-bending process.