Preserving the History of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle, Washington

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The Administration Building Plaque

Administration Building Plaque: Bebb & Gould & Molten Metal
Researched and Written by Isabelle Franklin

Although originally designed by Bebb & Gould in their plan for the locks buildings and grounds, it was not until 1985 that the plaque on the East side of the Administration Building was completed.

The plaque shown on the left is attached to the east side exterior wall of the administration building. You may have visited the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks many times and observed the plaque, but not know its story. Although work on the original ship canal buildings and grounds, designed by the firm of Bebb & Gould, was completed in 1922, the plaque was not created until 1985.  When the locks underwent  an $8 million rehabilitation from 1982 to 1985, the Corps of Engineers rediscovered the original design drawings for the plaque and decided to have the work completed.

Working from Bebb & Gould’s original drawing, and assisted by artist Gary Westwood and Mastermark engravers, Peterson Pattern Works, a local foundry, fashioned the plaque.  Because of the size and complexity of the plaque, it was cast in three pieces then welded together.  The finished plaque, which weighs about 425 pounds, is attached to the building by eight high strength bolts.

The design of the plaque is rich in symbolism including:
  • The Eagle, emblem of the United States, used by the Corps of Engineers in its Coat-of-Arms.
  • The French term “Essayons” which is the motto of the Corps and means “let us try”.
  • The Castle, the symbol of the Corps of Engineers since 1839.

Pouring the molten metal into the mold.
The Plaque also identifies five Corps of Engineers employees who were instrumental in designing and building the Chittenden Locks, including Colonel James B. Cavanaugh, who was responsible for all aspects of the locks' construction.

At the bottom of the plaque is the name of the Consulting Architect for the locks campus buildings and designer of the plaque, Carl F. Gould, a very influential architect in the Northwest.  Gould founded the University of Washington School of Architecture in 1914 and designed 19 buildings on the main University of Washington campus, including Suzzallo Library.  He also designed many other notable buildings in Seattle, including the original Seattle Art Museum in Volunteer Park and the Montlake Bridge.
The plaque is lifted into place.

The plaque was dedicated in a ceremony in August of 1985 commemorating the rehabilitation project.  Completed nearly 70 years after opening of the locks, the plaque looks to the future with a commitment to continuing service to the public.

Bolting the plaque to the wall.