Seattle Police Museum forced to close after cracks, damage show up in its Pioneer Square building

By: Deedee Sun

Updated:

The Seattle Police Museum is closing and moving all its artifacts because of safety concerns. The museum’s founder says new, deep cracks started showing up in the building two weeks ago and he was worried about visitors getting hurt. 

“I came in to open the museum as normal and I look at gate, and the first thing I see is that large crack there that had not been there before,” said Officer Jim Ritter with the Seattle Police Department, who founded the museum in 1997. 

He did a closer inspection and noticed much more damage, including door frames that have shifted from the wall, small fractures that became large cracks, and a wall that separated from its perpendicular wall by another inch.

Ritter thinks it could be related to Bertha's drilling but can’t say for sure. The building already had some small fractures, from earthquakes in 1949, 1965, and 2001. Ritter says the building seemed solid until some more small cracks appeared during the time while Bertha was drilling in 2015, and since then he’s been keeping a close eye on any damage. 

“We had all kinds of hairline cracks in here, but not like this,” he said, gesturing toward a wall spiderwebbed with cracks. 

Bertha work did impact and cause cracking in some buildings in the Pioneer Square area. The state says it had an engineer conduct more than 80 inspections between 2015-2016, and the engineer only found cosmetic damage. 

Still, the state says it invited all property owners to file damage claims. Eight building owners did – but the owners of the building occupied by the Seattle Police Museum did not. Calls and emails to the museum building's owners, Samis Land Company, were not returned Thursday.  

Ritter says he knows a variety of things could’ve caused the new damage and he’s not pointing fingers. But regardless of why, he was worried enough to shut down the museum. Now after nearly 20 years, the museum closed.

He says though he’s no engineer, he’s done construction work in the past, and held a contracting license at one point. His biggest concern with the new damage developments is a brick wall supporting heavy beams that’s bowing slightly. 

“Anytime a wall isn't straight up and down supporting a load and you've got a bend to it, it gradually weakens,” Ritter said. “It was a risk I wasn't willing to take.” 

The museum is filled artifacts from the Seattle Police Department dating back to 1889. There are displays documenting Seattle’s first female police officer, old uniforms and weapons and the capture of the Green River serial killer.  

Now, Ritter, who founded the museum and personally assembled many of the displays, is taking down the pieces of police history one by one. 

“It’s bittersweet but it's been a great run,” he said. 

Ritter says the museum had been planning on a big 20-year anniversary in November of 2018. 

All of the museum’s artifacts are going into storage outside of Seattle for now, but Ritter says they will be documenting all of the displays and putting them on a website. He’s also hoping the museum won’t be closed for good, and is looking for an affordable property to rent in the future. 


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