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King Street Station

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; the 1912 Baist's Real Estate Atlas of Seattle still refers to King Street Station as "Union Passenger Depot". King Street Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the Washington Heritage Register in 1973.

King Street Station
King Street Station (Seattle) 2005 05 23.jpg
View from southeast, city skyline in background
Location303 South Jackson Street
Seattle, Washington
Coordinates47°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 byCity of Seattle
Line(s)BNSF Northwest Division
Platforms3 island platforms
1 side platform
ConnectionsLight rail:
     Red Line (transfer at International District/Chinatown station)

First Hill Streetcar (transfer at 5th & Jackson)

Transit bus services:
King County Metro
Sound Transit Express
Community Transit
Long-distance bus services:
Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach
Northwestern Trailways
Travel Washington
ParkingPaid parking available nearby
Disabled accessYes
Other information
Station codeAmtrak code: SEA
OpenedMay 10, 1906
Passengers (2017)667,475[2]Increase 2.77% (Amtrak)
Preceding station BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak Following station
Tukwila Amtrak Cascades Edmonds
Tacoma Coast Starlight Terminus
Tacoma Dome
Terminus Empire Builder Edmonds
toward Chicago
Preceding station Sound Transit logo simplified.svg Sound Transit Following station
Terminus North Line Edmonds
toward Everett
toward Lakewood
South Line Terminus
Preceding station Rocky Mountaineer Following station
Terminus Coastal Passage Pacific Central (Vancouver)
towards Banff or Jasper
Former services
Preceding station BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak Following station
Terminus North Coast Hiawatha Edmonds
toward Chicago
Pioneer Tacoma
toward Chicago
King Street Station
Location3rd Ave. S. and S. King St., Seattle, Washington
Arealess than one acre
ArchitectReed & Stem
NRHP reference #73001877[3]
Added to NRHPApril 13, 1973
King Street Station is located in Washington (state)
King Street Station
King Street Station
Location in Washington
King Street Station is located in the United States
King Street Station
King Street Station
Location in United States

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.

In 2018, King Street was the third-busiest station in the Western United States (behind only Los Angeles and Sacramento) and the 15th-busiest overall.[5]


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.

After the end of World War II, as passenger rail travel began to decline across the United States, steps were taken to gradually modernize King Street Station. The ticket counters, once located directly to the east of the compass room, were expanded outward into the waiting room. In the late 1940s a set of "electric stairs" and a new side entrance to the second floor railroad offices were built over the open stairwell to Jackson Street, narrowing them by half.[10] Over the next two decades, as train ridership and the station's number of employees dwindled, the station was further remodeled to reduce maintenance and heating costs. In the late 1950s the station's original high-back benches, made of yellow oak, were replaced by modern chrome and plastic seats.[11] The final blow occurred in the late 1967 when, under the direction of Northern Pacific Architect A.C. Cayou, a new drop ceiling of plastic and metal was installed in the waiting room ten feet below the original, concealing the hand-carved coffered ceiling to just below the balcony and second level arcade. Hundreds of holes had to be punched through the plaster to attach the ceiling's support wires to the steel frame of the building. The new ceiling held new fluorescent lights and heat lamps, replacing the original brass chandeliers and sconces. Below the new ceiling, plaster reliefs, marble panels, glass tile mosaics and other original fixtures were sheared from the walls and replaced with sheet rock.[12] 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.

Despite the attempted modernization, the station continued to deteriorate. Following the creation of Amtrak in 1971 to take over the money-losing passenger service from the railroad companies, hundreds of routes were eliminated and service across the country was cut in half.[13] Amtrak consolidated all of its Seattle service at King Street Station, resulting in the closure of Union Station, which formerly served Union Pacific (the Milwaukee Road had moved out a decade earlier). To further cut costs the station's restaurant, lunch counter, and gift shop were immediately closed and vending machines installed.[14]

Today, the station has been fully restored and is part of a group of transportation facilities in the southern portion of Downtown Seattle. King Street Station is located a block away from the International District/Chinatown station of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel serving the Link Light Rail Central Link route, many King County Metro and Sound Transit Express bus routes serve the area, and the First Hill line of the Seattle Streetcar network stops nearby. After many years, the original upper entrance off of Jackson Street has been reopened. The station entrance located on the first floor off King Street now also has a passenger drop-off loop for vehicles, instead of a small parking lot.


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.[15]

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.[16] The deal, revised to $10, was signed March 5, 2008.[17] 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.[18]

In 2008, the clocks in the clock tower were repaired,[19] and the old radio microwave antennas were removed.[20] Repair work to the exterior continued as of June 2010.[21] 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 undertaken 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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[22]

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.[24] The restoration project was completed and the station was officially rededicated on April 24, 2013.[25]


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 Italianate" with definite Italian inspirations in the clock tower while the base shows influences of Beaux Arts.[26]

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.[15] 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.


Currently King St. Station has 25 daily train departures:

Amtrak boardings and alightingsEdit

Year 2011[27] 2012[28] 2013[29] 2014[30] 2015[31] 2016[32] 2017[2]
Total 672,485 672,351 640,054 626,623 604,832 649,491 667,475
YOY difference -134 -32,297 -13,431 -21,791 44,659 17,984
YOY difference % -0.02% -4.80% -2.10% -3.48% 7.38% 2.77%


Nearby placesEdit


  1. ^ "Seattle, WA - King Street Station (SEA)". Amtrak. Archived from the original on January 11, 2014. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2017, State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2017. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. November 2, 2013.
  4. ^ "King Street Station awarded $18.2 million". The New Pioneer Square. November 2, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  5. ^ Amtrak national fact sheet FY2018
  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 August 12, 2007.
  8. ^ a b Corley, Margaret A. (March 1973). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory -- Nomination Form" (PDF). National Park Service, Department of Interior. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 10, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2008.
  9. ^ "Union Station Clock is Second in Size". The Seattle Times. May 6, 1906. p. 13.
  10. ^ "Travelers' Aid". The Seattle Times. February 16, 1950.
  11. ^ "New Look". The Seattle Times. January 30, 1958.
  12. ^ "King St. Station Receives Face-Lift Over Two Years". The Seattle Times. August 27, 1967.
  13. ^ Barr, Robert (April 30, 1971). "No Reason Passenger Trains Can't Be Added - If Plan Works". The Seattle Times.
  14. ^ Duncan, Don (December 15, 1971). "Down at the Depot, Waitin'...". The Seattle Times.
  15. ^ a b "Great American Stations: Seattle, WA (SEA)". Amtrak. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  16. ^ "Seattle City Ordinance, No. 122312". Office of City Clerk, City of Seattle. December 11, 2006. Retrieved February 2, 2007.
  17. ^ Lindblom, Mike (March 5, 2008). "New round of fixes for King Street Station". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on June 18, 2008. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  18. ^ Young, Bob (November 21, 2006). "$1 deal struck for King Street Station". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on February 26, 2007. Retrieved February 2, 2007.
  19. ^ Murakami, Kery (October 28, 2008). "No Parking Anytime: Time no longer frozen on King Street Station clocks". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  20. ^ "Antenna Mast Removed from Historic King Street Station" (Press release). City of Seattle. October 21, 2008. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  21. ^ Bundridge, Brian (March 4, 2009). "King Street Station Updates". Seattle Transit Blog. Retrieved March 5, 2009.
  22. ^ a b "King Street Station: 3rd floor walls demolition". Seattle Department of Transportation. June 14, 2010. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
  23. ^ Erb, George (July 13, 2010). "Seattle's King Street Station re-emerges". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  24. ^ Haeck, Tim (October 28, 2010). "Feds chip in millions for King Street Station face lift". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on October 30, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  25. ^ "Seattle's historic King St. Station restoration nearly complete". KING-TV. Seattle. April 16, 2013. Archived from the original on April 27, 2013. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
  26. ^ MacIntosh, Heather. "Seattle's King Street Station opens on May 10, 1906". HistoryLink. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  27. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2011: State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2011. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 30, 2013. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  28. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2012: State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2012. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 7, 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  29. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2013: State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2013. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 26, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  30. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2014: State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2014. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 10, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  31. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2015: State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2015. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 19, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  32. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2016, State of Washington" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2017.

External linksEdit