The North East Branch circulated more books from its collection than any other Seattle Public Library branch. Library service in the North East area began with the advent of the Ravenna-View Ridge deposit station in December 1945. A post-World War II construction boom brought hundreds of new homes and families into the area served by this deposit station (Ravenna-Bryant, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, Wedgwood, Morningside, Hawthorne Hills, and Windermere).
The original North East Branch replaced the deposit station and was designed by prominent Seattle architect Paul Thiry (1904-1993) in the Modernist style of architecture. Paul Thiry was considered by many architectural historians to have been the father of Northwest Modernism. The branch opened in 1954, winning many design awards. In 2001 the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board designated the North East Branch a city landmark.
But by the time the building closed for construction in April 2003, the light, spacious interior of Thiry’s original design had been rendered almost unrecognizable by the necessary addition over the years of many rows of shelves to house the branch’s heavily used collection. The expansion project, designed by The Miller/Hull Partnership, revealed once more the bones of Thiry’s design and continued his theme.
Miller/Hull maintained the building’s roof peak, linking the original portion of the building with the new portion to enhance the connection between old and new. The roofline of the new section is the inverse of the roof of the original building, complementing and enhancing the original architecture. The collection capacity was expanded to accommodate 66,700 books and materials, while the welcoming openness of Paul Thiry’s original design was recaptured.
The expanded facility had more seating, many more computer work stations, a large meeting room, upgraded functional technology, small instruction/meeting rooms, and a vastly improved lighting system. The total square footage of the facility was expanded from 7,042 square feet to 15,000 square feet. Recycled building materials were used whenever possible. Seismic safety was also upgraded as part of the project.
The renovated North East Branch also contains a large, comfortable area designated for teenagers and an updated children’s area. During its earlier days, the North East Branch was notably home to young library patrons Bill Gates (b. 1955) and Paul Allen (b. 1953), each of whom as adults donated in excess of $20 million to the Seattle Public Library.
More than 3,000 North East Branch patrons swarmed the reopened facility on opening day.