The author, Charlene Roise, is President of the historical consultants Hess Roise.

The laundry building, con't.
A preservation historian on the architecture

more on the Seattle Empire Laundry Building
The Seattle Empire Laundry also displays a distinctive feature associated with the drying process - one that is unique to its industry.

Laundry was still damp after being spun by the extractor. (Tumblers for drying were just being introduced around the time of the Empire Laundry's construction). Flatwork, like sheets and table linens, dried while being ironed by giant, heated rollers on the "mangle".

Clothing was usually placed in a drying room on stationary racks, on racks that could slide in and out of the room, or on a movable track that wound slowly through the drying room and automatically ejected dried items line's end.

These rooms were heated by steam pipes. Good air circulation was essential to drying clothes quickly and without yellowing, so fans and other devices were paired with outlets to draw moisture out of the drying rooms. Ellis Clayton's "Manual of Modern Steam Laundry Work" provides more detail about contemporary drying practices:

"It is now the general practice to use propellers [on the top of the room], so that the air is forced down through the goods and then passes out through openings in the apparatus just above the floor level. Drying rooms of this kind are almost universally employed for drying certain classes of goods at high temperatures; they appear to have been specially introduced for use in connection with the boiled starch process, and, like many other machines of American design, they are commonly built on the sectional or compartment principle."

Clayton later notes: "Considerable diversity of opinion still exists respecting the best positions for the outlets as well as the inlets of drying rooms, although many authorities are agreed that the most efficient drying system is one in which the heated air enters at the top of the room and subsequently escapes through outlets at or near the floor level. This arrangement is now generally employed."

On the north wall of the Empire Laundry (see photo at left), the outlets for the drying room are clearly visible just above the floor level of the second story. The drying room is in near alignment with the boilers in the basement, following standard industry practice.

As one historian observed, "In multi-story laundries, the drying room was often situated directly above the boiler room in the belief that heat would be lost in pipes that had to bend around corners." On the interior, sections of the drying room are still extant.

As I mentioned earlier, industrial buildings are subtle, but they often have unique features that reveal their original purpose. When we look at the facade of its north wall, this is clearly the case with the Seattle Empire Laundry.