Town Hall: 2020 Exemplary Stewardship Award

Congratulations to the project team!

Owner: Town Hall Association; Architect: BuildingWork and Weinstein AU (Matt Aalfs AIA, Kate Weiland AIA, Dave Aynardi AIA)

Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates; Civil Engineer: SiteWise Design; Landscape Architect: Karen Kiest Landscape Architects; Acoustic and AV Design: Jaffe Holden; Theater Consultant: The Shalleck Collaborative; Mechanical Engineer: Mazetti; Electrical Engineer: Stantec; Lighting Designer: Blanca Lighting Design; Interior Designer: Amy Baker Interior Design; Owner’s Representative: Point32; General Contractor: Rafn Company

The Town Hall Seattle building, originally the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist, was designed in the Classical Revival style by architect George Foote Dunham and opened in 1916. In 1997, the congregation of the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist was faced with the possibility of selling to an unsympathetic developer. Historic Seattle completed a feasibility study that supported its use as a performance space and successfully negotiated a purchase and sale agreement for the property. In 1998, Historic Seattle assigned the purchase rights for the building to Town Hall, LLC, an investor group led by David Brewster. Now called the Town Hall Association, the nonprofit ownership has offered hundreds of music performances, author readings, lectures, and a variety of “town hall” civic discussions and events in the years since.

After operating in the existing building for 15 years, Town Hall’s leadership realized that – while the building’s historic character helped define the organization – the building had many liabilities that limited programming opportunities. More people had passed through the building’s doors in its 20 years as a venue than in the previous 84 combined, pushing the century-old infrastructure to its limit and necessitating a complete renovation of the building. As part of the planning for the renovation project, Town Hall self-nominated for City of Seattle landmark status to help ensure that the upgrades would not alter the historic aesthetic.

“To address Town Hall’s liabilities, we started with a deep and thorough investigation of the historic building to learn how it was built, using both the latest 3D scanning technology and old-fashioned on-site physical investigation. We continually looked for and found innovative ways to integrate new construction within the building’s historic fabric. Our solution challenged conventional notions of design and engineering to prioritize historic preservation,” the architects at BuildingWork said.

The building’s preservation and modernization work included a complete seismic retrofit that minimized the visual impact of the structural work, improved accessibility, a new gender-neutral restroom, a new entrance to the downstairs venue, restored stained glass and light fixtures, state-of-the-art performance systems, new code-compliant mechanical systems, and sustainability upgrades – all while meeting the highest possible standards for preservation.

Today, Town Hall stands beautifully rejuvenated. The Forum on the lower level providesfor more intimate gatherings, and the stately Great Hall is a perfect performance and meeting space for large gatherings. Town Hall now has the facility it needs to further its mission for many years to come, earning the project team our Exemplary Stewardship Award.