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West Coast Grocery Building
The West Coast Grocery Building is part of a collection of four linked historic warehouse buildings that make up the University of Washington’s Academic Building. Like the Garretson Woodruff Pratt Building to the south, the West Coast Grocery Building rises five stories on Pacific Avenue and four stories on Commerce Street, and follows the grade of the hillside rising to the west. It was part of the first phase of construction on the University of Washington Tacoma campus.
As with most other warehouses along Pacific Avenue, the West Coast Grocery Building possesses Classical and Romanesque stylistic references, including arched windows, dentil moldings, pilasters, and modillions lining the east facade’s cornice. Many decorative details, such as window sills and stringcourses, are executed in terra-cotta. Its brick load-bearing walls have been reinforced with steel beams and concrete shear walls. Shadowy remnants of painted signs advertising the businesses that once occupied space within remain visible on the north, south, and west facades. They have been preserved to remind passersby of the structure’s historic tenants.
Inside, an atrium rises the full four stories of the academic space, which includes classrooms, offices, and conference rooms. The ground floor facing Pacific Avenue contains retail spaces that the university leases to businesses. Old-growth Douglas fir that was used in the original construction of the building but removed to create the atrium has been re-milled for stairs, light standards, doors, wainscoting, and chair rails. On the second floor, overlooking the atrium, is a work of sound art by Tacoma artists Dan Senn and Patty Quake called Vertical Penduling (1999). This artwork can be set in motion by pushing a button, where vibrations on cords cause drumsticks to hit speaker cones. The resulting sounds reverberate throughout the atrium.
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