Historic Resources Survey

In 2000, the City of Seattle began a systematic and comprehensive effort to survey and inventory historic resources in the City. To date, surveys and inventories of eight neighborhoods have been completed as well as neighborhood commercial districts and residential properties built prior to 1906.

The last citywide survey was completed in 1979. Unlike the current effort, the 1979 survey was a "windshield" survey that identified buildings that appeared to have architectural significance but the surveyors did not have the tools to conduct additional historical research to evaluate the significance of the properties. Beginning with the survey and inventory of City-owned properties in 2000, professional architectural historians and volunteers have surveyed and inventoried more than 5000 properties that are included in the database are now available to the public.

What is a survey and inventory?

A survey and inventory is a process by which potential historic properties are systematically identified (survey) and evaluated (inventory). The survey and inventory data can be used as a planning tool to meet local, state and federal environmental review requirements, identify and minimize conflicts between development and preservation goals, and to identify potential historic landmarks.

How was the determination made as to which buildings were included in the survey and inventory?

Buildings were evaluated based on age, physical integrity, architectural style, and known historic significance.

How was the age of buildings to be included in the survey and inventory determined?

Buildings 40 years and older were included in the survey and inventory so that a majority of those buildings would meet the 50 year criteria of the National Register of Historic Places by the time the survey and inventory process is complete.

If a building is not in the survey and inventory, does it mean it is not significant?

Buildings not included in the survey and inventory could be significant. There may be properties that are historically significant but have been altered and therefore were not included in the survey and inventory based on their current appearance. If you would like to conduct additional research on a building, there are suggestions for additional sources at the end of this question and answer section.

Are the properties listed in the database subject to any restrictions or eligible for any benefits?

There are no restrictions on properties in the database unless the properties are City of Seattle landmarks or buildings in a local or National Register historic district. If that is the case, return to the homepage for the Historic Preservation website for additional information .The only exception is a circumstance in which a property may be eligible for consideration as a landmark during a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review. The City's SEPA policies at clarify when the policy is applicable.Properties listed only in the survey and inventory are not eligible for incentives for City of Seattle landmarks or buildings in historic districts.

How do I search the database?

You can search the database by parcel number, if known; street address, year built, architectural style, neighborhood and by architect. You can use a combination of these search terms as well to narrow your search.

What do the terms mean on the form?

There is a Glossary of Terms that describes the terminology used on the database form.

What neighborhoods are included in the database and how were the boundaries determined?

To date, the following neighborhoods or classes of property are included in the database:

  • City-owned buildings
  • Neighborhood commercial properties throughout the city
  • Residential structures constructed prior to 1906 in all areas except the area that lies east of Lake Union and a line established by Fairview Avenue from Lake Washington Ship Canal South Atlantic Street.
  • Cascade
  • Central Area
  • Columbia City
  • Georgetown
  • Mount Baker
  • North Beacon Hill
  • North Rainier
  • Pioneer Square
  • Queen Anne
  • South Park
  • University

The data for the South Lake Union and Wallingford neighborhoods will be added in early 2005. A survey and inventory for apartment buildings in the Capitol Hill, Eastlake, First Hill neighborhoods is underway as is a survey of single-family buildings in Capitol Hill to be completed in 2006. Additional neighborhoods will be added to the database as funding is available. The boundaries for the neighborhoods are described in each of the context statements.

Are City of Seattle landmarks, National Register and Washington State Heritage Register properties listed in the database?

Some City of Seattle landmarks, National Register and Washington State Register properties are listed in the database but that is not a searchable option. Not all of the properties are listed and the best way to check that information is to go to the City landmarks site at the Department of Neighborhood Historic Preservation. The Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation has a searchable databasefor Washington State Heritage properties and National Register properties.

Does the database list the property owner?

The database does not list the current property owner as ownership information changes frequently. If you are interested in knowing the property owner and you know the parcel number, the King County Department of Assessments has a searchable database. If you do not know the parcel number, you can find that information at here.

If I want to research a building in more detail, what resources are available?

There are a variety of agencies and offices throughout the City, region and state that offer additional historical resources including the Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Regional Branch; the City of Seattle Municipal Archives, and the King County Archives. For a more comprehensive list of resources, click here (MS Word Document).

If I want copies of historic photos, how do I obtain them?

The Puget Sound Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives has historical photos available for purchase. For more information about the Archives and the services they offer, visit their website. The Museum of History and Industry and theSpecial Collections at the University of Washington both have excellent photography collections that are available for researchers.


Jenifer Chao, Director
Address: 600 4th Avenue, 4th Floor, Seattle, WA , 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94649, Seattle, WA, 98124-4649
Phone: (206) 684-0464
Fax: (206) 233-5142

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