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Building History

Three Lives: The Auburn Post Office

Post Office
The historic Auburn Post Office was built in 1937, thanks in large part to funding provided by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.
The land for the post office was donated by Levi Ballard, an Auburn resident who served as the town’s first postmaster in 1886. The post office functioned as such up until the 1960’s, where it was then purchased by King County, and was used as a medical center for over four decades.

In the year 2000, the Post Office was listed on the King County Landmarks Register, the Washington State Heritage Register, and the National Register of Historic Places. It’s closure in 2009 left the building unoccupied, with room to be reimagined by the community.


The City of Auburn purchased the building in 2016, with a vision for the future: The Postmark Center for the Arts. With the goal to make the economic, educational, cultural, and civic benefits of the arts available to all communities by broadening public access to the arts in Auburn.

Left: Auburn Post Office Dedication, Kralowec & Postmaster General, 1938.

Photos provided by The White River Valley Museum 

Historic Postmark Center in Auburn | Spellman Award from King County TV on Vimeo.

The City of Auburn has transformed the historic Auburn Post Office into the Postmark Center for the Arts with major construction and renovation that began in mid-December 2021. The renovations and interior transformations were designed by Johnston Architects and the remodeling and construction project was handled by American West Construction.


"It is such an exciting moment to see the dream of this arts & culture center finally becoming a reality after so many years," said Mayor Nancy Backus, "The Postmark Center for the Arts will be much more than a remodeled building, it will be a place where the community can come together in appreciation of arts and to share cultural experiences that will strengthen our bond as a community."

The main floor is now dominated by a gallery and gathering space, a multi-use studio space for arts education of all ages, and a classroom and meeting space. The original post-office vault has been transformed into an inspiring and unique art installation space. A main-floor gift shop now serves as a revenue-generator and gives local artists an opportunity to promote and sell their work. A catering kitchen and/or café strengthens the vision of Auburn's Postmark Center for the Arts as a community event space.

Wishing Tree

Additional project components include newly required fire and life-safety systems, HVAC improvements/modifications; restroom improvements, new lighting systems, roof replacement and cupola repairs; as well as refinishing the original historic terrazzo and wood floors. In a future phase, the renovated basement level will feature teaching spaces for community-based arts classes, performance rehearsal spaces, and additional studios. 

    “The project team found inspiration in the building’s original design. Demolition of the interior walls, bulky column wraps, and suspended plaster ceiling gave way to an open space with high wood plank ceilings, allowing ample natural light deep into the interior. Newly revealed raw structures merge with refined elements, like the building’s original floors and marble wainscot, to create a unique backdrop for classrooms, galleries, art studios, and community spaces that celebrate the building's history and bright future,” noted Ray Johnston, Founding Partner of Johnston Architects.

    The City of Auburn was pleased to have the opportunity to work with members of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe on several aspects of the Postmark Center for the Arts and the adjacent Auburn Arts Alley. Inspiration for the tile mosaics on the seating wall along the alley adjoining the Postmark Center for the Arts is a product of the collaborative work of Kathleen Fruge Brown and Gail White Eagle, a talented textile artist and weaver with The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. White Eagle provided input on many of the contemporary and traditional weaving designs, along with other Coast Salish weaving and basketry designs that the mosaics are based upon. Fruge Brown designed the base of the bench to proclaim the text of the Muckleshoot motto, “I am alive and strong” in bəqəlšuɫucid and translated into ten other languages most commonly spoken in the Auburn community. Visitors to Postmark Center for the Arts will eventually be greeted by a one-of-a-kind carved welcome figure created by Muckleshoot artists and traditional carvers Keith Stevenson and Tyson Simmons. This work with the Muckleshoot Tribal Culture Division will bring an iconic symbol of Muckleshoot culture into the heart of downtown Auburn and will be marked with a land acknowledgement plaque. This is an important and essential way to honor Auburn’s rich cultural diversity and history of the area.

    Project supported by: 
    4 Culture Logo

    Work on the building has been tackled in phases as fundraising efforts have allowed. Historic window restoration was completed in Spring 2019; abatement and main floor interior demolition was completed in spring of 2021; and all needed funding was secured in fall of 2021 to move forward with construction. In all, the City of Auburn secured $928,000 in grant funds for Phase One main floor renovations which will cost nearly $2.5M. 4Culture, the arts and cultural funding agency for King County, generously provided multiple grants from their funding programs including: Building for Culture; Preservation Special Projects; Arts Facilities; Landmarks Capital; Preservation Emergency and Unforeseen; and Building for Equity Arts Facilities grants. MultiCare generously supported the project through its Community Partnership Fund. Additionally, direct appropriation of funds from the State of Washington Department of Commerce were awarded thanks to efforts by Representative Pat Sullivan, who championed the application. It is with immense thanks to these funders, and the unwavering support of the Auburn community and City of Auburn, that the renovations have been as success.

    Grant Funding Secured

    4Culture (2016-2019 Building for Culture)  $200,000
    4Culture (2017-2018 Preservation Special Projects)  $10,000
    4Culture (2017 Arts Facilities Grant)  $90,000
    4Culture (2017 Landmarks Capital)  $10,000
    MultiCare Grant  $15,000
    4Culture Building for Equity (2019 Arts Facilities Grant)  $50,000
    State of Washington Dept. of Commerce - 2019   $500,000
    4Culture (2019 Landmarks Capital)
    funding toward wood and terrazzo floor rehabilitation
    4Culture (2020 Preservation Emergency and Unforeseen)
    funding toward cupola restoration
    4Culture (2021 Landmarks Capital)
    funding toward roof

    The Postmark Center for the Arts will provide increased access to the arts and cultural education for the local and regional community and drive economic activities in Auburn’s downtown core. The newly renovated lobby space and multipurpose rooms will offer new public programs like music and dance performances, visual arts exhibitions, literary arts events, and other cultural gatherings. The goal is to make the economic, educational, cultural, and civic benefits of the arts available to all communities by broadening public access to the arts.

    Art Studio RenderingRendering of Cafe/GalleryEntryway RenderingRendering of GalleryKitchen RenderingShop Rendering

    Architectural rendering of future Arts & Culture Center

    Rendering of Cafe/Gallery

    Rendering of Entrance to Arts & Culture Center

    Rendering of Gallery

    Rendering of Kitchen

    Rendering of Shop in future Arts & Culture Center

    Project Timeline:

    • August 2016-Current: Ongoing Fundraising efforts 
    • August 2016: Building Acquisition
    • September-November 2016: Initial Community Outreach & Input
    • December 2016: Initial Designs & Cost Estimates 
    • Late Fall 2018-Spring 2019: Historic Window Restoration
    • Late 2019-Fall 2021: Interior Abatement & Demolition
    • December 2021: Phase One Renovations
    • September 2023: Phase One Grand Opening
    • End of 2024: Phase Two Renovations

    Community Input/Visioning:

    Wish List

    Additional information on the building and history of the building (PDF).


    Former News Articles: