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Seattle Landmarks: Black Manufacturing Co. (1914)
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Address: 1130 Rainier Avenue S, Seattle. In 1914, George G. Black wanted a new home for the manufacture of his Black Bear brand of overalls. He was concerned for the health and welfare of his employees and sought a departure from the sweatshop conditions of the garment industry of the time. He commissioned Andrew Willatzen (Willatsen) (1876-1974) to design a building.
Willatzen apprenticed in the Oak Park, Illinois, studio of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959). After moving to Seattle, Willatzen had done primarily residential work and the Black commission was only his second industrial job. Willatzen supplied a daylight design with more than 15,000 square feet of windows, a shed roof skylight, direct access for trucks, an overhead sprinkler system, and mill construction. Up to 550 employees could work there and enjoy amenities such as a cafeteria which sold food at cost and a roof garden.
The Black family operated the garment business until 1981. The building, especially the windows, suffered for several years from vandals, but it remained structurally sound. In 1984, it was sold for office and manufacturing space and rehabilitation was guided by Anderson, Koch, and Duaarte.
On September 8, 1987, the Seattle City Council designated the building a Seattle Landmark because of its association with the heritage of the community and its distinctive architectural style.
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Landmarks Preservation Board, 700 Third Avenue, 4th Floor, Seattle, Washington; Lawrence Kreisman, Made to Last: Historic Preservation in Seattle and King County, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), 62.
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