Theme: Arts & Culture
Washington Hall is one of the Central Area’s most celebrated venues for music and performing arts. Its founders, subsequent owners, and tenants reflect the diverse groups of people that have called the neighborhood home since it opened.
The building was commissioned in 1908 by the Danish Brotherhood in America, an organization dedicated to serving Danish immigrants to the United States and their descendants. Designed by architect Victor Voorhees in 1904, the building features an eclectic mix of architectural styles, with Mission Revival elements being the most notable. The Hall’s timber frame and brick facade remains one of the few of its kind in Seattle. Parts of the original building have been destroyed over the years by earthquake and fire.
The interior space was built to provide a performance venue, kitchen facilities, smaller meeting rooms, and short-term boarding rooms. To offset maintenance costs, the Brotherhood welcomed organizations from all backgrounds. Washington Hall was one of the few venues in town that would rent space to African Americans when most were segregated. As a result, it was the site of African American civic, social, and military gatherings through the 1960s. The performance hall served as a popular venue to showcase a wide range of musical talent from locals like Oscar Holden and a young Jimi Hendrix to big names like Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson, and Billie Holiday.
In 1973, the Sons of Haiti—an African American Masonic Lodge—purchased the building. Like the previous owners, they rented out Washington Hall to various community groups. As labor and social justice movements took root and spread throughout the Seattle area, Washington Hall served as a hub for local labor union meetings, Communist and Socialist Party gatherings, and organizing by the Black Panthers.
By the early 2000s, rental income was no longer sufficient to maintain the building. After a series of public meetings and comments, the City of Seattle approved Washington Hall as a landmark in 2009. Historic Seattle purchased the building and undertook a multi-year, multi-million-dollar renovation which was completed in 2016. Today, Washington Hall is available for community rental and meeting space. While still owned and maintained by Historic Seattle, it is also home to several anchor organizations, including 206 Zulu, Hidmo/Cypher Café, and Voices Rising.