Investors did not originally jump at the chance to build on the old University site. Many investors feared the former home of the University of Washington was too far north of Seattle's downtown, economic center. However, in 1907, the Metropolitan Building Company (MBC), with the help of a small group of local and East Coast financiers, hired the New York architectural firm of Howells & Stokes to draw up a master plan for the entire tract.
Howells & Stokes developed a plan intended on creating a city within a city comprised of a department store, offices, a hotel, housing, and a central plaza. The firm exhibited its plans in New York to the Architect's League of America and reported in Architectural Record and Pacific Builderand Engineer, where they received an overwhelmingly favorable response. As one of the nation's first planned urban development programs of its kind, it went on to inspired building projects throughout the U.S.
The MBC built the White and Henry buildings, followed by the Stuart, all named for company investors. The building's coordinated facades created the appearance of a single structure, which inspired locals to refer to the entire structure as the White Henry Stuart Building. The MBC then built the Stimson Building, Ice Arena, and Metropolitan Theatre between 1909 and 1915. However, only the Cobb -- opened in 1910 and named for lumberman C. H. Cobb -- avoided demolition in the 1950s and 1970s.
As the West Coast's first building designed expressly for physicians and dentists, the entrance includes a relief of Hippocrates. The facade features large terra cotta cartouches incorporating a stylized Indian chief's face in full headdress. Inside, The Cobb incorporated a bank of four high-speed elevators, additional gas and electrical service, and a built-in vacuum cleaning system. The Cobb's 10th-floor roof garden became a popular attraction for residents and tourists.
Starting in 2006, The Cobb served Seattle as a 92-unit luxury apartment building with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The Cobb is another example of the economic and population boom realized by Seattle in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Following the Klondike gold rush and expansion in railways and shipping industries, Seattle was no longer a frontier town. The Metropolitan Tract was ahead of its time in scope and ambition, but reflecting the way cities change over time, the Cobb Building is one of the last remaining structure from that period and the University of Washington is returning to the area with plans to build an urban campus.