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INS Building (#27)

Also known as: Inscape Arts

Completed in 1932, this building served as the region’s immigration detention station until 2004. Private owners purchased the building in 2008 and by 2010 it was transformed into artist workspaces. And what happened to the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the region? It outgrew one building and became two – with administrative services moved to Tukwila and a new detention center opened in Tacoma.

With its long history, stories from the INS Building span the Chinese Exclusion era to post 9/11 round-ups targeting Muslim immigrants. After Japan attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, people of Japanese descent (Nikkei) on the West Coast fell under suspicion. Community leaders were rounded up immediately after the attack, and held at immigration facilities such as this one before being sent to prison camps.

Miyo Ike was born in Seattle to Japanese immigrant parents (Issei). Her father owned the N.P. Hotel (see waypoint #11) in Japantown. Miyo spent most of her childhood living in the hotel. She was a teenager in 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

“That very day, December 7th, we already saw the FBI in person. There were usually two gentlemen, very dark coats and hats, and they would walk in, hand a piece of paper over with a name, and ask my father and the clerk – this person, which room did he live in? They would go upstairs, find the man, and all we saw was this one single man, going out with his toilet articles and maybe a couple pieces of clothing. And he was taken away… That happened to several of the residents in our hotel.

[My uncle] also was taken away. I remember he was taken to the Immigration Building… We visited him about two or three times, so [he] must have been [there] about a month… You went in, and signed in, and then you waited until they came to window, and you just talked with them… [My uncle] looked very fragile. I was surprised how he was always such an upstanding, fine figure of a man – he was tall for a Japanese – and it just seemed like he had shrunken… And it was sad… All this makes you feel helpless, because there’s nothing you can do.”

Images

Heavy bars once covered the exterior windows and restricted movement for detainees held inside.

Photo by Dean Wong. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.

View into one of five large interior detention cells.

Photo by Dean Wong. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.

News article from February 22, 1942 documents the round-up of Issei men.

Wing Luke Museum Collection.