The Showbox sign. Photo by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Seattle: The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation is announcing the Showbox in downtown Seattle as the newest addition to its statewide list of Washington’s Most Endangered Places. The purpose of the Most Endangered Places list is to raise awareness about the threats facing important historic and cultural places in Washington and to rally community support around them.

As part of the campaign for the Showbox, the Washington Trust will be supporting and endorsing the nomination of the Showbox as a City of Seattle Landmark. As Washington’s only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to building, supporting, and sustaining communities through historic places, the Washington Trust is proud to support Historic Seattle’s efforts to seek landmark status for the building. Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board will consider the nomination at a meeting held today, Wednesday, June 5, 2019, at 3:30 p.m. at Seattle City Hall (600 4th Avenue) on the first floor in the Bertha Knight Landes Room. The public is invited to attend the meeting and make comments.

Completed in 1917, the building now known as The Showbox was originally built as the Central Public Market, a competitor to the nearby Pike Place Public Market. In 1939, the building underwent a substantial Art Moderne remodel and opened as a performance venue, “The Show Box.” For the next 80 years, the building continued mainly as a performance venue, with brief stints as other ventures and a few periods of vacancy.

The period of Showbox history many people will remember began with new management in the late 1970s. During this time, the Showbox featured Punk Rock and New Wave-era bands, eventually becoming the premier rock venue in the city. In the 1990s, the Showbox also held comedy shows in addition to continuing to nurture Seattle’s growing rock scene. The Showbox has changed management several times in the recent past, but it continues to be a pioneering performance venue and a key feature of Seattle’s identity as a music city.

When it was announced in 2018 that a developer is making plans for a 44-story tower on the site of the iconic Showbox theater, the Seattle community exploded in opposition to the project with the campaign to #SavetheShowbox garnering attention from nationally-known musicians and performers in support of preserving this icon of Seattle’s musical culture.

Due to Seattle’s landmark ordinance and environmental review processes, the developer was compelled to nominate the Showbox for landmark status with no intention of preserving it or incorporating the building into their development. Historic Seattle, a local partner of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, commissioned and submitted a landmark nomination ahead of the developer to ensure it would be well researched and take a nuanced approach to the layered history of the building.

Since 1992, the Washington Trust has maintained a list of Most Endangered Places as its principal advocacy and awareness program for sites significant to communities across Washington. Nominations to the list are solicited from the public and selected by the Washington Trust’s Board of Directors. Inclusion on the list is reserved for those places of particular historic or cultural significance for the community and for Washington State.


The Showbox front facade. Photo by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Showbox sign and marquee. Photo by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

The many faces of the Showbox. Top left: the Central Public Market building in 1938; top right: The Show Box in 1940 after the Art Moderne remodel; bottom left: the Showbox in 1981; bottom right: the Showbox in 1987 after a substantial storefront remodel. Photos from Puget Sound Regional Archives and the University of Washington Special Collections, accessed through the Showbox Landmark Nomination document.

Additional Documents

Public notice of Showbox nomination – Notice the city released publicly announcing the details of the meeting where the Showbox nomination will be reviewed.

Nomination report for the Showbox – The nomination document Historic Seattle submitted to the City.

“Being Relevant” – Article addressing the complexity of the Showbox nomination published in the Washington Trust’s quarterly magazine, This Place.


For more information about the Washington Trust’s Most Endangered campain for the Showbox, please contact Jennifer Mortensen, our Outreach Director, by email or at 206-462-2999.