KCMS’ headquarters was originally built in 1915 as the King County Juvenile Court and Detention Home. Designed in the Colonial-Georgian revival style by noted Seattle architect George Lawton, the building is one of the few remaining examples of the county’s early social service buildings.
This remained the juvenile detention home until the late 1940s, when a new building was built to house young detainees. It was later used for medical services, and is now owned by the King County Medical Society and houses its administrative offices, historical archives, and collections.
Architect George Willis Lawton was born in Wisconsin on Dec. 29, 1864. He moved to Seattle around 1886 and initially worked as a draftsman for the architectural firm of Saunders & Houghton. By 1889, he emerged as a partner with Charles Saunders.
Together Saunders & Lawton designed a range of projects, including numerous apartments and hotels such as the Lincoln Apartment Hotel; the San Marco (1905); and the Summit Apartments (1910), all in Seattle, and the Shelton Hotel (1908) in Shelton. They also designed some of the first buildings at the Veterans Home in Retsil (1908) and the public library (1914) in Sedro Woolley.
Another specialty was warehouses, and they found a fertile market for their designs amid the growth of the Pioneer Square area as a distribution center. Some of their buildings include the Norton Building (1904); the Mottman Building (1906); the Goldsmith Building (1907); and the Provident Building (1910). They adeptly used a range of revival styles, including Romanesque, Classical, Tudor and Colonial. One of their most noted works was the Forestry Building (1908-09) at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, a classical design executed in raw logs.
For unknown reasons, the partnership was dissolved in 1914 and Lawton worked independently for several years. He formed a new partnership with the younger Herman A. Moldenhour (1880-1976) in 1922. Moldenhour, also from the Midwest, had been an office boy for the Saunders & Lawton firm. The firm specialized in large office and apartment buildings. Projects included St. Demetrois Church (1921); the Fifth Avenue Court (1922); Hawthorne Square Apartments (1923); The Bigelow Building (1923); the Olive Crest Apartments (1924); the Olive Way Improvement Co. Building (1924); the Republic Building (1927-28); and the Liggett Building (1927).
The partnership ended when Lawton died unexpectedly on March 28, 1928, at the age of 63. Moldenhour continued with an independent practice.
Courtesy of Washington State Department of Archeology & Historic Preservation.
“George W. Lawton, Architect, is Dead” Seattle Daily Times, March 28, 1923.
Coming soon: More history, photos and archival information.