Block 41 is downtown Seattle’s newest and most exciting private event venue. Located in the heart of Belltown, the impeccably renovated 1927 former ice warehouse offers three discrete indoor spaces on two levels, plus a landscaped outdoor courtyard. Award-winning architecture firm Graham Baba, along with other local artists and craftsmen, collaborated to repurpose this vintage industrial building into a unique and elegant multi-purpose venue. Block 41 combines the best of old and new – massive old growth timber, exposed brick walls, and vintage car decking merge gracefully with blackened steel, leather column wraps, and state-of-the-art building systems.
Block 41’s three indoor spaces – The Bert & Tot Ballroom, The Musings Gallery, and The Ewing Theatre – offer flexibility for a wide range of event types and sizes, from intimate gatherings of under 100 guests to mega ones for over 800. And the Courtyard, with its large ipé deck, outdoor loading dock and living green wall, allow events to spill out of doors when the weather permits.
Block 41 first came to life in 1927 as a garage for the Kennedy Wagon Company which relocated from a building on nearby Battery Street. Soon after being completed, however, the building was taken over by the Ice Delivery Company.
The ice distribution business was managed by a kindly sensitive ice man named Albert L. Ewing. “Bert”, as he was known, believed in paying it forward. In a meeting of the Northwest Association of Ice Industries in 1920, he boasted about his company’s profit sharing plan and how it helped with employee loyalty. Bert also was a poet who wrote heartfelt poems about his wife, Anna, known as “Tot”, and about his love of Seattle and the Northwest. Some of his poems were recently compiled into a book by Bert’s grandson, Peter Cameron. This collection of poems is aptly named “Musings of an Iceman”. Bert also was a dedicated gardener and outdoorsman. He was a longtime president of the Seattle Cactus Society and held a patent for an outdoor camping stove.
Block 41 has chosen to honor the spirit of this special Seattle ice man by dedicating our event spaces to his memory. You can rent the Musings Gallery, the Ewing Theater or the Bert and Tot Ballroom. Bert’s family members are happy about that and we think Bert would be too.
Block 41’s lead architect Jim Graham of the firm Graham Baba credits a trifecta of influences for shaping his design vision. As an architecture student, studying abroad in both Paris and Copenhagen allowed him to soak up the best of elegant old and edgy new architecture. And oh yes, his father was an architect.
But it is in Graham’s work on Seattle projects – notably the St. Ignatius Chapel at Seattle University, when he was part of Olson Sundberg, and the 2015 Starbuck’s Reserve Roastery® and Tasting Room with his own firm– that his style has reached its full fruition. Graham’s bold vernacular choices infuse a crisp new energy into the pedigreed patina of tradition.
In Block 41, Graham was tasked with repurposing a 1927 industrial building, a former carriage garage and ice warehouse among other things, into a flexible exciting event space embellished with several handcrafted sculptural pieces. These are deftly integrated into a skillful design that breathes fresh life into the building while preserving historical elements of its past. Click here to read the interview with Jim on our Blog.
Structural beauty in all its forms has always been compelling to Susan Tillack, Block 41’s managing architect for the Seattle architecture firm Graham Baba. As a former assistant editor at the prestigious Oxford University Press and Grove Press, she helped enhance the structural beauty of language. With Block 41, she helped transform the structural beauty of a 1927 former ice warehouse into a chic contemporary event venue.
A trip to Paris years ago awakened her to the structural beauty of preserved architecture. Horrified by the destruction of older buildings back home in the U.S., she decided to pursue a masters degree in historic building preservation. But along the way she became more interested in the adaptive reuse of buildings, instead of strict restoration. That led her to a degree in architecture and work with Graham Baba, a firm noted for making old buildings fresh and new while preserving the patina of their past. Click here to read the full interview with Susan on our Blog.
Seattle metal and glass master Stephen Hirt whose pieces can be found in museums, hospitals, churches and public parks was commissioned to create the courtyard gate and entry chandelier for Block 41. Yet Stephen feared as a kid in college that he would never be able to achieve his dream of being an artist because he did not think he could draw well enough. But encouraged by an insightful professor, Hirt continued in art. After a year traveling in Egypt and Turkey and working on an Israeli kibbutz, he returned to his alma mater Illinois State as a graduate teaching assistant and focused on glass blowing and metal lost wax casting. His new expertise in metal came in handy when after buying a one-way ticket to Asia, he ended up running a French-owned bronze foundry in Thailand. He taught the workers how to make wax molds instead of using manure and clay and revolutionized production. Soon the foundry had commissions from New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Hirt next worked as an art restorer for the Cleveland Museum of Art while his wife earned her masters in nonprofit management at Ohio’s Case Western University. They then went Sarajevo where Hirt got a grant to do art therapy with Bosnians disabled by the war. He taught them how to do paper casting with recycled garbage and create greeting cards they were able to sell. Hirt recalls how meaningful it was for them to earn money instead of being completely dependent. The program was called Glasnadey - Voice of Hope. His wife is now the assistant director of the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington and Hirt creates metal and glass art pieces in his studio for himself and for select clients. Click here to read the full interview with Steve on our Blog.
Block 41 lighting designer Tom Sturge realized as a stage-struck kid watching the Broadway debut of “Pippin” that here was magic to do. Determined to get closer to the magic he’d witnessed, young Sturge waited until the theater emptied and made his way to the stage. All he saw was a bare wood floor with bits of tape and string. Turning around he noticed an array of powerful light fixtures aimed at the stage. Instead of being disappointed, Sturge felt a surge of elation.
“It was all done with lighting,” Sturge recalls all these years later. At that moment Sturge knew he had found what he wanted to do for his life’s work. Click here to read the full interview with Tom on our Blog.