King Street Station

For other uses, see King Street#In public transit.
King Street Station

View from southeast, city skyline in background
Location 303 South Jackson Street
Seattle, Washington 98104[1]
United States
Coordinates 47°35′54″N 122°19′47″W / 47.59833°N 122.32972°W / 47.59833; -122.32972Coordinates: 47°35′54″N 122°19′47″W / 47.59833°N 122.32972°W / 47.59833; -122.32972
Owned by City of Seattle
Line(s) BNSF Northwest Division
Platforms 3 island platforms
Tracks 9

Light rail:

Bus services:
King County Metro
Sound Transit Express
Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach
Northwestern Trailways
Travel Washington

Parking Yes; paid
Disabled access Yes
Other information
Station code Amtrak code: SEA
Opened May 10, 1906
Rebuilt 2008–2013
Passengers (2015) 604,832[2]Decrease 3.48% (Amtrak)
Preceding station   Amtrak   Following station
Amtrak Cascades
toward Los Angeles
Coast StarlightTerminus
TerminusEmpire Builder
toward Chicago
TerminusNorth Line
toward Everett
toward Lakewood
South LineTerminus
Rocky Mountaineer
TerminusCoastal Passage
toward Banff or Jasper
toward Angle Lake
Central Link
  Former services  
Preceding station   Amtrak   Following station
Discontinued in 1997
toward Chicago
King Street Station
Location 3rd Ave. S. and S. King St., Seattle, Washington
Area less than one acre
Built 1906
NRHP Reference # 73001877[3]
Added to NRHP April 13, 1973
King Street Station
Location within Washington (state)

King Street Station is a train station in Seattle, Washington, United States. Located between South King and South Jackson streets and Second and Fourth Avenues South in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle, the station is just south of downtown. Built between 1904 and 1906, it served the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railway from its grand opening on May 10, 1906, until the creation and start of Amtrak on May 1, 1971. The station was designed by the St. Paul, Minnesota architectural firm of Charles A. Reed and Allen H. Stem, who were later associate designers for the New York Central Railroad's Grand Central Terminal in New York City. King Street Station was Seattle's primary train terminal until the construction of the adjacent Oregon & Washington Depot, later named Union Station, in 1911. King Street Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the Washington Heritage Register in 1973.

Since the early 1990s the station was in various states of repair to undo remodels done during the middle of the Twentieth Century to "modernize" the facility, including the restoration of the elegant main waiting room. King Street Station was purchased by the City of Seattle in 2008 for $10 and, with enough funds finally in place, the restoration was finally completed in 2013.[4]

The station is served by Amtrak Cascades, Empire Builder, and Coast Starlight trains, and by Sound Transit's Sounder commuter trains. King St. Station is also the Seattle terminus for the Rocky Mountaineer's luxury excursion train, the Coastal Passage. For the first nine months of 2006, Sounder service boarded almost 1.2 million passengers at King Street Station.[5]


A Sounder train at the station

Built between 1904 and 1906 by the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railway, the station replaced an antiquated station on Railroad Avenue, today's Alaskan Way. Designed by the firm of Reed and Stem of St. Paul, Minnesota, who acted as associate architects for the design of Grand Central Terminal in New York City, the station was part of a larger project that moved the mainline away from the waterfront and into a 5,245 foot (1,590 m) tunnel under downtown.[6][7] The depot's 242-foot (74 m) tower was modeled after Campanile di San Marco in Venice, Italy,[8] making it the tallest building in Seattle at the time of its construction. This tower contained four huge mechanical clock faces built by E. Howard & Co. of Boston, Massachusetts, offering the time to each of the four cardinal directions. At the time of installation it was said to be the second largest timepiece on the Pacific Coast, second only to the Ferry Building in San Francisco, California.[9] Later, this tower also served as a microwave tower for the Burlington Northern Railroad, the successor of both the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railways, whose offices occupied the second and third floors of the station.

Over the years, remodeling concealed the station's original ornate interior. The final blow occurred in 1965 when the hand-carved coffered ceiling of the main waiting room, and a balcony and second level arcade were hidden by a lower dropped ceiling, which was installed 10 feet (3.0 m) below the original. Under the direction of Northern Pacific Architect A.C. Cayou, the waiting room was walled off and marble was removed from columns as well as ornamental plaster being sheared from the walls as high as the new dropped ceiling.[10] The grand staircase linking South Jackson Street with the west entrance was reduced to half its original size, and an addition housing escalators was constructed on the west elevation of the building, which was not in keeping with the building's architecture. After the remodel, the only original remaining features left visible in the main waiting area were the terrazzo tile floor and the clock on the west wall above the restrooms.

From a practical standpoint, the station is close to downtown. However, unlike cities such as Boston, it is not near the intercity bus terminal, although the station is less than a block from the International District of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. For many years, the original upper entrance off of Jackson Street was not used. Instead, the main entrance was located on the first floor off of a small parking lot, rather than a drop off loop.


View of suspended ceiling, now removed
Remodeled interior of King Street Station

Plans to restore the entire building to its former prominence, including cosmetic renovations to both the station interior and exterior, began in 2003. As part of these renovations the Compass Room and restrooms were refurbished, and the exterior awnings were replaced. New mahogany entry doors and wood framed windows were installed in the waiting room and Compass Room. New brass door hardware and reproduction period light fixtures and plaster decorative work were included to reproduce the former character of the station's interior.[11]

In November, 2006, the Office of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced a preliminary agreement between the City of Seattle and BNSF Railway to purchase the station for $1. The Seattle City Council formalized the agreement by passing legislation in December, 2006.[12] The deal, revised to $10, was signed March 5, 2008.[13] The purchase by the city freed up US$19 million of state and federal funds that was used for further restoration of the station. The city earmarked a further US$10 million for the restoration as part of a passed local transportation levy.[14]

In 2008, the clocks in the clock tower were repaired,[15] and the old radio microwave antennas were removed.[16] Repair work to the exterior continued as of June 2010.[17] Phase two of the project began in May 2010, when demolition work commenced on the second and third floors, previously used by Burlington Northern for division offices. Work on modernizing the baggage area, originally used as a restaurant, were also understaken during this time. During June 2010, work also began on demolition of a 1950s addition to the building that housed the escalators and part of the Jackson Street Plaza. Demolition work was completed by September 2010.[18] A surprise development during this phase was the removal of the suspended ceilings in early July. Crews worked over several nights while the station was mostly empty removing the over 1,600 acoustic tiles and their framing. The modern light fixtures and remaining suspended wires remained until enough funding became available to complete restoration.[19] The final phase of the project focused on the rebuilding of the Jackson Plaza. Thirty-six geothermic wells reaching 300 ft (91 m) into the ground were drilled to eventually heat and cool the station. A new concrete floor was poured including seismic wall supports and space for an elevator and new ticketing and baggage areas.[18]

In October 2010, the King Street Station project was awarded $18.2 million from $2.4 billion in high-speed intercity passenger rail service funding announced by the U.S. Transportation Department. This funding was needed by the project in order to complete seismic regrades and to finalize the restoration of the interior.[20] The restoration project was completed and the station was officially rededicated on April 24, 2013.[21]


King Street Station rehab

King Street Station is a red brick masonry and steel frame building with terra cotta and cast stone ornamentation, through relatively subdued in comparison to the clock tower. The entire first floor exterior is brick-clad with granite. The building is L-shaped with the clock tower marking the main entry on the west facade.[8] The clock tower and main entry terminate the axis of King Street in Pioneer Square. The architectural style is sometimes denoted as "Railroad Italinate" with definite Italian inspirations in the clock tower while the base shows influences of Beaux Arts.[22]

Inside the main entry, at the base of the clock tower, is the entry hall, known as the Compass Room. The name references the navigational star compass rose design laid out in hand-cut marble tiles on the floor at its center.[11] The Compass Room has marble wainscotting, and is lighted by a multi-globe chandelier suspended above the compass rose from an elaborate plaster rosette. Triple-globe wall sconces around the perimeter illuminate a band of inlaid green iridescent glass tile on the walls. Circular clerestory windows are trimmed in plaster relief decoration. This motif was originally repeated throughout most of the station's waiting room. While there is no known influence for the design of the interior, it resembles the ceiling of the famous Salone dei Cinquecento at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy featuring a similar coffered grid with dentils and repeating circles.

Passenger service

An Amtrak Cascades train in King Street Station

Currently King St. Station has 22 daily train departures:

Amtrak Boardings and Alightings

Year 2011[23] 2012[24] 2013[25] 2014[26] 2015[2]
Total 672,485 672,351 640,054 626,623 604,832
YOY difference -134 -32,297 -13,431 -21,791
YOY difference % -0.02% -4.80% -2.10% -3.48%

Nearby places


  1. "Seattle, WA - King Street Station (SEA)". Amtrak. Retrieved 11 Jan 2014.
  2. 1 2 "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2015, State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2015. Retrieved 12 Jan 2016.
  3. National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  4. "King Street Station awarded $18.2 million". The New Pioneer Square. 2 Nov 2010. Retrieved 9 Nov 2010.
  5. Riley, Kate (17 Dec 2006). "Crowning the King". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2 Feb 2007.
  6. Schwantes, Carlos (1993). Railroad Signatures across the Pacific Northwest. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 226. ISBN 0-295-97535-0.
  7. "King Street Station--Seattle, Washington: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary". National Park Service. Retrieved 12 Aug 2007.
  8. 1 2 Corley, Margaret A. (Mar 1973). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory -- Nomination Form" (PDF). National Park Service, Department of Interior. Retrieved 27 Aug 2008.
  9. "Union Station Clock is Second in Size". The Seattle Times. 6 May 1906. p. 13.
  10. "King St. Station Receives Face-Lift Over Two Years". The Seattle Times. 27 Aug 1967.
  11. 1 2 "Great American Stations: Seattle, WA (SEA)". Amtrak. Retrieved 11 Jan 2014.
  12. "Seattle City Ordinance, No. 122312". Office of City Clerk, City of Seattle. 11 Dec 2006. Retrieved 2 Feb 2007.
  13. Lindblom, Mike (5 Mar 2008). "New round of fixes for King Street Station". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 11 Nov 2008.
  14. Young, Bob (21 Nov 2006). "$1 deal struck for King Street Station". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2 Feb 2007.
  15. Murakami, Kery (28 Oct 2008). "No Parking Anytime: Time no longer frozen on King Street Station clocks". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 11 Nov 2008.
  16. "Antenna Mast Removed from Historic King Street Station" (Press release). City of Seattle. 21 Oct 2008. Retrieved 11 Nov 2008.
  17. Bundridge, Brian (4 Mar 2009). "King Street Station Updates". Seattle Transit Blog. Retrieved 5 Mar 2009.
  18. 1 2 "King Street Station: 3rd floor walls demolition". Seattle Department of Transportation. 14 Jun 2010. Retrieved 14 Jun 2010.
  19. Erb, George (13 Jul 2010). "Seattle's King Street Station re-emerges". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved 9 Nov 2010.
  20. Haeck, Tim (28 Oct 2010). "Feds chip in millions for King Street Station face lift". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 9 Nov 2010.
  21. "Seattle's historic King St. Station restoration nearly complete". KING-TV. Seattle. 16 Apr 2013. Retrieved 17 Apr 2013.
  22. MacIntosh, Heather. "Seattle's King Street Station opens on May 10, 1906.". HistoryLink. Retrieved 8 Nov 2010.
  23. "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2011: State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2011. p. 1. Retrieved 6 Jan 2015.
  24. "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2012: State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2012. p. 1. Retrieved 6 Jan 2015.
  25. "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2013: State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2013. p. 1. Retrieved 6 Jan 2015.
  26. "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2014: State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2014. p. 1. Retrieved 12 Jan 2016.

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