National Archives at Seattle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

National Archives at Seattle
National Archives at Seattle - front entrance, Feb. 2020.jpg
General information
AffiliationNational Archives and Records Administration
Collection size56,000 cu ft (1,600 m3)
Period covered1840s–1980s
Building information
Construction date1963
Address6125 Sand Point Way Northeast
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Coordinates47°40′24″N 122°16′03″W / 47.67333°N 122.26750°W / 47.67333; -122.26750Coordinates: 47°40′24″N 122°16′03″W / 47.67333°N 122.26750°W / 47.67333; -122.26750

The National Archives at Seattle is a regional facility of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Pacific Region located in Seattle, Washington. The archives building is situated in the Windermere neighborhood of Northeast Seattle, near Magnuson Park, and holds 56,000 cubic feet (1,600 m3) of documents and artifacts.

The archives opened in 1951 and moved to a permanent facility in 1963 at a renovated Navy warehouse. In 2020, the federal government approved plans to close the Seattle branch and sell the property, sparking backlash from local historians and public officials.


The National Archives at Seattle are housed in a building on Sand Point Way in the Windermere neighborhood of northeastern Seattle, near Magnuson Park and the Burke-Gilman Trail.[1] The building is described as "drab" and "warehouse-like", and is located on a 10-acre (4.0 ha) campus with parking and a perimeter fence.[2][3][4] The facility has 202,150 square feet (18,780 m2) of floor space and can hold up to 900,000 cubic feet (25,000 m3) of documents and records on 14-foot (4.3 m) shelves.[3] The public access research room has seven computers and several microfilm readers.[5] The building utilizes climate controls that set internal temperatures at 65 °F (18 °C) and humidity at 40–45 percent.[4] As of 2009, the Seattle facility had 40 employees and 40 volunteer assistants.[3]


As of 2020, the Seattle facility has 56,000 cubic feet (1,600 m3) of permanent records, including documents and artifacts from the U.S. states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.[5][6] The records date from the 1850s to the 1980s and include treaty documents from the region's 272 federally recognized Native American tribes, as well as unrecognized groups.[7][8][9] The collections are organized into 110 record groups based on the federal agency or system that authored them.[10]


The General Services Administration opened a records center at the Sand Point Naval Air Station in 1951, serving as Seattle's branch of the National Archives.[11] The Seattle branch was upgraded to a federal records center in August 1953 and moved five times prior to the establishment of the permanent facility.[12] The new facility near Sand Point was located in a 59,000-square-foot (5,500 m2) Navy warehouse that was built in 1949 and underwent extensive renovations that cost $397,000.[13][14] It was dedicated as the Federal Archives and Records Center on November 16, 1963, in a ceremony that included speeches from Governor Albert D. Rosellini and U.S. senators Henry M. Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson, who praised the facility as "one of the finest centers in the nation".[15] By 1969, the Seattle Federal Records Center had grown to 170,000 cubic feet (4,800 m3) of material and 18 full-time employees.[16] A portion of the collections was destroyed in a fire in 1974.[14]

The Seattle branch began receiving national microfilm records in 1970, beginning with the minutes of the Continental Congress.[17] The arrival of U.S. Census records in 1974 caused public use of the facility to increase from 25 people per day to over 2,500, credited to the interest in genealogy spurred by the Bicentennial celebration.[18] The Seattle facility remained the smallest in the National Archives and Records Service system, with a capacity of 280,000 cubic feet (7,900 m3) in 1977.[19] The facility's Montana records were transferred to the Denver Archives in 1976,[20] and the Alaska records were moved to a new facility in Anchorage, Alaska, that opened on July 11, 1990.[21] The National Archives and Records Administration announced its closure of the Anchorage facility in 2014 and the records were transferred back to Seattle.[22]

Proposed closure[edit]

The Public Buildings Reform Board (part of the Office of Management and Budget) recommended the closure of the Seattle facility in late 2019. The recommendation report, submitted in December 2019, identified the 10-acre (4.0 ha) campus as highly valuable for sale and redevelopment.[6][23] The recommendation was not subject to public hearings or advance notice, with only a briefing for the office of U.S. representative Pramila Jayapal in October.[24] The site was one of only fourteen Federal properties nationwide recommended for disposal by the PBRB; the other Washington state site recommended was the General Services Administration's Auburn Complex.[25] The recommended archives closure was approved by the federal government in January 2020, with plans to relocate records to storage facilities in Riverside, California, and Kansas City, Missouri, over an 18-month period.[2][26]

The planned closure and relocation of records drew criticism from historians, archivists, and public officials in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.[2][6] The U.S. senators from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska signed a letter to the Office of Management and Budget opposing the closure.[1][8] The editorial boards of The Seattle Times and the Anchorage Daily News also published articles condemning the proposal.[27][28] An on-site protest was held by indigenous rights activists on February 11, 2020, while tribal leaders from the Pacific Northwest met with officials from the National Archives and Records Administration.[8] Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced plans to review the closure for possible litigation under the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires public disclosure of the rationale for certain federal actions, or Executive Order 13175, which requires consultation with tribal officials for relevant federal decisions.[29][30]

The facility was temporarily closed to the public on March 23, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[31] The planned full closure was challenged by Ferguson in a set of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed against NARA, the Office of Management and Budget, and the General Services Administration.[32] In January 2021, the state governments of Washington and Oregon, joined by 28 tribes, filed a lawsuit against the federal government to halt the facility's closure following a notice from NARA that it intended to accelerate the sale process.[33]


  1. ^ a b Comeau-Kerege, Marisa (February 13, 2020). "Seattle's National Archives and the Fight to Keep History Here". Seattle Met. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Lacitis, Erik (January 25, 2020). "'Terrible and disgusting': Decision to close National Archives at Seattle a blow to tribes, historians in 4 states". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Upchurch, Michael (October 24, 2009). "Regional treasures rest at Seattle's National Archives branch". The Seattle Times. p. A1. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Wong, Brad (March 20, 2006). "Inside a cold, gray building, history and life abound". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. B1. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions about the National Archives at Seattle". National Archives and Records Administration. October 31, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Wang, Deborah (February 6, 2020). "First 'panic,' then a battle to keep the National Archives in Seattle". KUOW. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  7. ^ "Services for the Public". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Lacitis, Erik (February 11, 2020). "'Frustrated': Tribes finally get hearing with National Archives about Sand Point facility closure". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  9. ^ Golden, Hallie (December 30, 2020). "'Our history is contained there': loss of archive threatens Native American tribes". The Guardian. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  10. ^ "Numerical List of Record Groups in the Archival Holdings at the National Archives at Seattle". National Archives and Records Administration. January 26, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  11. ^ McDonald, Lucile (September 1, 1963). "A Dignified Home Is Prepared for Our Archives". The Seattle Times. pp. 12–13.
  12. ^ "Annual Report on the National Archives and Records Service From the Annual Report of the Administrator of General Services For the Year Ending June 30, 1954" (PDF). National Archives and Records Service. 1955. p. 9. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  13. ^ Banel, Feliks (January 22, 2020). "Concerns raised about closure of National Archives in Seattle, which contains Chinese Exclusion Act records". KIRO Radio. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  14. ^ a b Kuo, Keming (February 16, 1977). "Digging up your roots can lead you to records center". The Seattle Times. p. H1.
  15. ^ "U.S. Record Center Praised". The Seattle Times. November 17, 1963. p. 19.
  16. ^ Doig, Ivan (August 31, 1969). "Records Never Die". The Seattle Times. pp. 8–9.
  17. ^ Norton, Dee (April 10, 1970). "Archives Unit Here Gets Continental Congress Data". The Seattle Times. p. B3.
  18. ^ Morrow, Theresa (September 20, 1987). "Finding your 'roots' is worth the eyestrain". The Seattle Times. p. B6.
  19. ^ Chebuhar, Teresa (July 31, 1977). "Paperwork: what to throw away?". The Seattle Times. p. D3.
  20. ^ Tarzan, Deloris (January 19, 1986). "Archives photos provide insider's view of changing Crow culture". The Seattle Times. p. L2.
  21. ^ "The National Archives and Records Administration Annual Report for the Year Ended September 30, 1990" (PDF). National Archives and Records Administration. 1991. pp. 28, 35. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  22. ^ Herz, Nathaniel (March 10, 2014). "National archives plans closure of Anchorage facility". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  23. ^ Banel, Feliks (January 15, 2020). "Federal panel recommends closure and sale of Seattle National Archives facility". KIRO Radio. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  24. ^ Banel, Feliks (January 17, 2020). "Officials knew Seattle National Archives facility might close for months without public feedback". KIRO Radio. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  25. ^ "Enclosure - High Value Asset List" (PDF). Public Buildings Reform Board. United States Government. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  26. ^ "Seattle Facility Approved for Closure" (Press release). National Archives and Records Administration. January 27, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  27. ^ The Seattle Times editorial board (January 31, 2020). "Don't send Seattle's federal archives across the country". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  28. ^ Anchorage Daily News editorial board (February 3, 2020). "Save the National Archives at Seattle, a link from past to present". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  29. ^ Lacitis, Erik (January 27, 2020). "Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson looking into decision to close National Archives in Seattle". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  30. ^ Lacitis, Erik (February 26, 2020). "Ferguson threatens to sue if feds don't reverse 'illegal' decision to close National Archives at Seattle". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  31. ^ Banel, Feliks (July 10, 2020). "Fate of Seattle National Archives facility still in limbo". KIRO Radio. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  32. ^ Whale, Robert (August 28, 2020). "Ferguson sues agencies over archive relocation decision". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  33. ^ Lacitis, Erik (January 4, 2021). "AG Ferguson, with tribes and historic groups, sues feds over Seattle National Archives closure". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 6, 2021.

External links[edit]