For the past 100 years pert near every description of Seattle contains the phrase “largest city in the Pacific Northwest.” The original settling party in 1851 seemed to sense this would be the case. They had come overland by wagon train from Illinois and boldly named their encampment “New York.” Similar grandiose thinking saw party leader Arthur A. Denny wrote to his brother that he had found “a valley that will support a thousand families.” But alas the settlers were on the west side of Puget Sound on Alki Point with sandy beaches that did not allow for easy loading and unloading of ships. Denny staked claims across the water along Elliott Bay and named the new settlement after the chief of the friendly Duwamish Indians. In short order the original cabins on Alki Point were abandoned and all the pioneers gathered at the site of current Seattle.

Seattle’s growth was never steady but came in waves of prosperity sandwiched around troughs of hard times. In the early days Seattle got the Territorial University while rivals Tacoma and Olympia got the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railway and the capital, respectively. After thirty years Seattle’s population still numbered around 3,000 and the streets were unpaved when the first boom - in timber - caused the population to jump to over 40,000.  

In the middle of the afternoon on June 6, 1889 fire broke out in a cabinet shop at First Avenue and Madison Street and before the day was over 50 downtown blocks and $15 million of property were consumed. The City wasted no time in reinventing itself. Eight-foot retaining walls were built around the remains of charred buildings, filled in to raise the grade over muddy tidal flats and paved for the first time. Plans were launched to level the hills near the shoreline. There would be no more wooden buildings downtown. Then the financial Panic of 1893 ground progress to a halt.

The dark days did not last long. In 1897 the transport Portland steamed into port with “a ton of gold” from the Yukon River district in Alaska. In the years to come it was estimated that Seattle controlled 95 percent of the the total amount of Alaskan shipping. When many of the prospectors returned they didn’t travel much past Seattle. By 1910 the population was pushing 250,000 and Seattle was one of the 25 largest cities in America. 

Most of that growth pushed the Central Business District northward and the original city core became neglected and so run down it was known as “Skid Road.” By the 1960s the future of most of the buildings in Pioneer Square lay as parking lots. Instead preservationists rallied and got a 30-acre swath of downtown designated an Historic District in 1969. Our walking tour of this collection of brick and stone Victorian buildings will start on Pioneer Square with part of Seattle’s original industry, a steam-powered sawmill established by Henry Yesler...

Mutual Life Building
605 First Avenue at northwest corner of Yesler Way

Henry Yesler built Seattle’s first industry, a steam-powered sawmill, down by the waterline in 1852. On this location he erected a cookhouse which rapidly evolved into the social center of the young town. After the Great Fire of 1889 Yesler began work on a single-story commercial block designed in a Romanesque Revival style by Elmer Fisher. In 1892 Yesler decided to add five stories of cream colored brick above the Salt Lake red sandstone ground level. It would be the last thing Henry Yesler would build in Seattle - he died six months after its completion in 1893. Sidewalks in front of the building were provided with glass insets that illuminated Underground Seattle that the rebuilt city was constructed over. In 1897 The Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York bought the building and stayed until 1916, remodeling and updating the structure. In the 1980s the property was restored.


Pioneer Building
600 First Avenue on east side of Pioneer Square

Unlike most prominent architects the early years of Elmer H. Fisher are murky. His time was apparently spent kicking around Montana, Minnesota, Colorado, and Washington dealing in farm implements and construction. What is known, however, is that Fisher is credited with designing half of the major buildings in Seattle in the first years after the Great Fire of 1889. The Pioneer Building, completed in 1892, was his masterwork, drawing praise as one of the finest structures west of the Mississippi River. Using gray Bellingham Bay sandstone, brick and cast iron, Fisher crafted a Romanesque-style 94-foot tall structure that became a symbol of the city’s post-fire rebirth. Fisher’s flurry of commissions ended in 1891 due to financial problems and a scandal involving a litigious mistress. When the Klondike Gold Rush kicked off in 1897 the Pioneer Building filled up with 48 different mining companies. Within 60 years, however, Seattle’s business core had moved northward and this iconic building, like all its Pioneer Square neighbors, was slated for destruction. Before it stared down the wrecking ball though the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Totem Pole
north end of Pioneer Square

Totem poles were not on the artistic repertoire of Puget Sound peoples when a totem pole made its debut in Pioneer Square in 1899. It was found by a group of Seattle businessmen during a trip to Southeast Alaska in what they assumed to be an abandoned Tingit village of Tongass. The villagers were only off in their fishing camps, however, and were none too happy to find their ceremonial pole stolen when they returned. The Tongass people complained about their purloined pole to the Alaskan government and Seattle ended up paying restitution but kept the pole. The original was damaged by fire in 1938 and this totem pole is a replica - also created by Tingit carvers. 


K and R Building/Emerald City Building
625 First Avenue at foot of Cherry Street

This three-story survivor from the early years of the 1900s features a Neoclassical design that you have to look closely to spot. The Starr-Boyd Building, an 1890 Elmer Fisher-designed building that once stood to the south, was an unlucky structure that was turned into a parking lot but its northern wall still adheres to the side of the Emerald City Building.

Scheurman Block
700 1st Avenue at northeast corner of Cherry Street

Here is another, more modest, effort from Elmer Fisher, completed in 1890 after the Great Fire of 1889. He decorated the fireproof brick building with Italianate-styled stone window hoods.

Colman Building
801-821 First Avenue at southwest corner of Marion Street

James Colman was a Scotsman with interests in woolen mills and sawmills but whose heart lay with railroading. Colman first built on this land on top of the salvaged remains of the ship Winward, that had wrecked off Whidbey Island. He towed the crippled vessel to his dock and entombed it for a foundation. After his original Colman Block burned in the Fire of 1889 he constructed a two-story Romanesque Revival commercial structure here on plans drawn by Stephen Meany. In 1904, two years before he died, Colman retained Danish architect August Tidemand to execute an expansion. Tidemand’s makeover was the first building in town to display the crisp, orderly appearance of the Chicago Commercial Style of architecture. If you look along 1st Avenue you can see the cast iron columns that are the only elements remaining from the original 1890 facade. 

Old Federal Building
909 First Avenue at southwest corner of Madison Street

Local lore maintains that this is the site where A.A. Denny, William Bell, and C.D. Boren tied up their boat and came ashore to make the surveys that started Seattle in 1851. It is also a site tainted with infamy as the Great Seattle Fire started in a cabinet shop here on June 6, 1889 and eventually destroyed 50 city blocks. This block-swallowing office building was designed by the federal government in 1930 to house 52 agencies, chief among them the Department of the Treasury. It was the first building in Seattle built for the national government and one of the first federal buildings to employ an Art Deco style that would become the New Deal’s go-to architectural design during its construction splurge in the Great Depression. The prominent feature here is the stepped pyramid, or ziggurat, ridgeline, draped in white terra-cotta icing.     

Globe Building/Alexis Hotel
1007 First Avenue at northwest corner of Madison Street 

James W. Clise arrived in Seattle the day after the town’s business district was reduced to smoldering ruins in 1889. Using his connections to eastern investors, the 34-year old Clise immediately established a real estate development business that survives into the fourth generation today. Clise set his sights on this block, mostly unbuilt upon since the Great Fire, in 1900 and raised three contiguous masonry structures that all still stand. All were designed in an Italian Renaissance style by Max Umbrecht who had just arrived in town from Syracuse, New York. Clise moved his operations into this block when it was finished in 1901 and it carried the name of his newly assembled shipbuilding and international trade concern, the Globe Navigation Company. Umbrecht also set up shop here where he was soon joined by English architect John Graham who, along with his son, would design some of Seattle’s most enduring landmarks. The Globe Building was only able to contain James Clises’s burgeoning empire until 1917 when he moved uptown into the much larger Securities Building.

Hotel Cecil
1031 First Avenue at southwest corner of Spring Street

This six-story hotel and adjoining four-story Beebe Building were constructed in tandem between 1900 and 1901 by James Clise for Clifford D. Beebe, who had made his money in interurban trolleys back in upstate New York. The properties were intended to take advantage of the Alaska Gold Rush by providing rooms for prospectors heading north and office space for mining and paper companies. Architect Max Umbrecht gave the hotel, that has operated under various names, a rusticated second floor above the retail level and three-story arches interspersed with decorative wreathes.    

Holyoke Building
1018 First Avenue at southeast corner of Spring Street

Richard Holyoke left the spruce forests of New Brunswick, Canada in 1860 and traveled across the continent at the age of 24 to work the evergreen forests of Washington. The more timber he sold, the more property he purchased in Seattle. Along the way he founded and helmed the National Bank of Commerce, the forerunner of the Rainier Bank, and in 1889 began construction of one of the town’s most substantial commercial blocks here. With just the foundation dug the Great Fire of 1889 erupted and the giant pit helped serve as a firebreak during the conflagration, preventing even more destruction northward. Afterwards the Holyoke Building was the first office building completed in the wake of the fire. The national financial Panic of 1893 struck Holyoke hard, however, and he sold all his downtown property and went off to lead the life of a farmer. The brick structure with granite trim trundled on and was restored in 1975.


J.A. Baillargeon Building/Security Pacific Bank Building
1100 Second Avenue at northeast corner of Spring Street

Local entrepreneur J.A. Baillargeon acquired this property in 1903 and set out to build a three-story dry goods emporium. Architects Charles Saunders and George Lawton designed the Neoclassical-flavored, window-dominated store, which opened in 1908 but closed within five years. The National Bank of Commerce took over the property in 1918 and the terra-cotta building did duty as a bank through the addition of two additional stories in the 1930s and a melding with the modern office building to the north in the 1950s


Henry M. Jackson Federal Building
915 Second Avenue at southwest corner of Madison Street

The presence of the federal government in Seattle had grown so much in the years since the first federal building was erected in 1930 that by 1971 this 37-story office tower was demanded. Standing in its way was the venerable six-story brick Burke Building that had stood since the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1889 and several other structures of lesser note. Preservationists lost the battle to save the Burke but architect Fred Bassetti incorporated souvenirs from its existence around the hardscaped plaza, including the stour Romanesque entry arch along Second Avenue. The building assumed the name of Henry Martin “Scoop” Jackson in 1984, one year after the six-term Democratic United States Congressman and six-term United States Senator died of an aortic aneurysm at the age of 71.

Exchange Building
821 Second Avenue at southwest corner of Marion Street

When this 22-story office building was completed in 1930 it was the second tallest reinforced concrete skyscraper in the United States. Its modernistic Art Deco design, contributed by leading architect John Graham, looked towards a limitless future for Seattle. But there would be no more major building projects in town after this for over a quarter-century. It was designed as a home for various commodity and stock exchanges - more mercantile exchanges than any other American building, in fact - but most were torpedoed by the Great Depression and not around when the 275-foot tower opened. Instead the early tenants to enjoy the polished granite walls and etched bronze doors were firms like General Electric and Standard Oil and Pacific Northwest Bell.

Marion Building
818 Second Avenue at southeast corner of Marion Street

This commercial structure began life in 1902 as a six-story brick and sandstone building from architects Timotheus Josenhans and Norris Best Allan. In 1930 it received a granite girdle and a Greek Revival entrance and in the 1950s the top three floors were lopped away.  

Puget Sound Bank/Bank of California
815 Second Avenue 

This Neoclassical vault came from the pen of John Graham, constructed for the Puget Sound Bank in 1924. Depositors gained a sense of assurance entering the bank through an arched doorway tucked into the monumental portico of fluted Ionic columns. The names of the deposit slips have changed through the years but the building is still serving in its original capacity as a bank.

United Way Building
720 Second Avenue at southeast corner of Columbia Street

This classically-inspired building was constructed in the early 1920s for the Seattle National Bank. At the time the corridor along Second Avenue between Cherry and Madison streets was stuffed with financial institutions, as many as 25 banks in some years. The Seattle National Bank organized in 1889 and after merging with Boston National Bank in 1903 it became the third-largest bank in town, setting up shop in the building on the corner across Columbia Street. Out front on Second Avenue is the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Co. Street Clock, one of Seattle’s landmark clocks.


Chamber of Commerce Building
219 Columbia Street at southwest corner of 3rd Avenue

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce was organized in 1882 as a cohesive advocate for keeping Alaska mail deliveries coming through Seattle and not processed in Portland or San Francisco. In 1924 the Chamber moved into this eclectic structure, reported as the town’s first cast stone building. Iowa-born architect Irving Harlan Thomas, who began his Seattle career in 1906, provided the Romanesque Revival design. The Chamber of Commerce moved on in 1983 and in the 1990s another fledgling concern that built around the the mail moved into the space - Amazon.   

Central Building
810 Third Avenue at northeast corner of Columbia Street

This half-block deep, eight-story structure stretching from Columbia Street to Marion Street was planned as a 15-story skyscraper with a domineering clock tower. But downturns in the economy caused the Central Trust Company to halt construction half way to the goal. The 1907 building is dressed in less expensive terra-cotta as well, masquerading as granite.


The Arctic Building
306 Cherry Street at northeast corner of Third Avenue 

The Arctic Club was formed in 1908 as a fraternal men’s club to swap stories about the Klondike Gold Rush. The club moved into this splendid Beaux Arts clubhouse in 1914, designed by Augustus Warren Gould. The building’s owner, James Moses, lived back in New Jersey where he operated the wildly successful Mercer Pottery Company. The building is sheathed entirely in cream-colored terra-cotta with accents of aquamarine and brown but its most memorable feature are the walrus heads that parade around the third floor. The Arctic Club disbanded in 1971 when there were presumably no more members with first person remembrances of the gold rush days. The building has been refitted to work as a hotel and the restoration took great care in repairing and replacing the three dozen walrus heads. 

Rector Hotel/St. Charles Hotel
619 Third Avenue at southwest corner of Cherry Street

Developers’ dreams outmuscling their pocketbooks was commonplace in the Seattle of the early 20th century. Here Alson Lennon Brown, using his timber baron father Amos’s money, set out to construct a grand hotel in 1911 and hired the town’s go-to architect, John Graham, to draw up the plans. But the nine-story hostelry envisioned by Graham became a six-story reality with all its Beaux Arts terra-cotta decoration confined to the lower floors. Nevertheless the Rector opened with great fanfare on May 6, 1913 with all visitors given a complimentary rabbit’s foot as they were entertained by a six-piece orchestra. The hotel operated under various names including “Governor” and “St. Charles” and most recently has provided low income housing.


Dexter Horton Building
710 Second Avenue at northeast corner of Cherry Street

Dexter Horton was born in the Finger Lakes region of New York state in 1825 before traveling west as a young man. He found work in Henry Yesler’s sawmill before opening a general store. In 1870, after several years in San Francisco, he returned to Seattle with a heavy safe and started the town’s first bank, relieving merchants of the task of making loans and accepting deposits from customers. It would be one of the corporate ancestors of Seattle First National Bank that would one day disappear into The Bank of America. The bank moved into this handsome home in 1924, pouring $600,000 into the sparkling white terra-cotta exterior and impressive marble interior. John Graham supplied the Neoclassical design with rusticated facade and Morgan Carkeek, an English stonemason who was said to have built the first two-story stone building in the Washington Territory, handled the construction.

Hoge Building
705 Second Avenue at northwest corner of Cherry Street

This was the location of the first structure built by Seattle’s founders after sailing across Puget Sound from Alki, a cabin erected by Carson Boren. Sixty years later it was the site of Seattle’s tallest building. Attorney and real estate investor John D. Hoge financed the 17-story tower, whose steel frame was constructed in just 30 days. The architectural team of Charles Bebb and Louis Mendel tapped the Second Renaissance Revival for the styling of the building that was owned by the Hoge family until 1966. 

Alaska Building
618 Second Avenue at southeast corner of Cherry Street

Thomas Crane Young and William Sylvester Eames were classically trained St. Louis architects who built a national reputation in early skyscraper construction and they came to Seattle in 1904 to raise the first steel-frame structure in the Northwest. The moneymen were the shareholders of Seattle’s Scandanavian-American Bank, hoping to cash in on the connection established between Seattle and Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. In its early years visitors could walk past a gold nugget embedded in the front door. Eames and Young gave the Alaska Building a Beaux Arts appearance and it reigned as the state’s Sky King until 1911. 

Bailey Building/Broderick Building
615 Second Avenue at southwest corner of Cherry Street

With money from his father’s Pennsylvania iron and steel factory, William Bailey came from Harrisburg to invest in Seattle’s rebuilding after the Great Fire of 1889. This brawny stone building was one of the first large, fireproof structures raised after the fire. When it was completed in 1892 the local papers gushed that the Harrisburg Block was a “Symphony in Stone.” It was known as the Bailey Building in 1908 when a 28-year old Minnesotan, Henry Broderick, rented space for his new real estate firm. Broderick would keep offices here for 43 years as he built his firm into the city’s largest. In 1986 the building was given his name.  


Oriental Building/Corona Hotel
606 Second Avenue

Charles Herbert Bebb and Louis Leonard Mendel formed the most prominent architectural shop in Seattle during the first decade of the 20th century. Bebb was an Englishman who began his career as a railroad engineer in South Africa before coming to Seattle in 1890 to oversee the construction of the Seattle Opera House, a project that turned out to be aborted. Eleven years younger, Mendel was a German who started as a draftsman in Cleveland, Ohio before migrating west. This 1903 building was one of their earliest efforts and the first building in Seattle to make extensive use of terra-cotta. After decades of neglect the commercial property was reborn as residential space in the 2000s. 

Butler Garage
northwest corner of Second Avenue and James Street

English-born architect John Parkinson would be the leading shaper of the Los Angeles cityscape in the first three decades of the 1900s but before he got to southern California he spent several years in Seattle designing buildings after the Great Fire in 1889. The Butler Block, that would later be converted into one of Seattle’s leading hotels in 1894, was one of his designs but you won’t see it today. After the Butler Hotel was shuttered during the Great Depression its upper four floors were razed and replaced by a multi-story parking garage on the remaining lower two stories. Hillory Butler was the owner of this land where he lived in the 1800s in a small house and worked a truck garden. When developers approached him about his centrally located land Butler agreed to sell with the provision that any major building bear his name in perpetuity. And the wishes of the truck farmer are still adhered to today.

Collins Building
520 Second Avenue at southeast corner of James Street

Sam Israel was born in 1899 in what was then still the Ottoman Empire, now part of Greece. During World War I he made his way to Seattle where he worked as a cobbler beginning in 1919. He invested his money in real estate, much of it in dilapidated Pioneer Square properties, performing only as much maintenance as was needed to stave off condemnation. This so-called “benign neglect” worked as a preservation strategy that would allow his eleven Pioneer Square properties to be restored after his death in 1994. This hillside structure was constructed by serial entrepreneur John Collins in 1893 on land where his family home burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1889. Collins had his financial fingers in mining, transportation, utilities, banking and real estate and found time to win election as the town’s fourth mayor. 


Lyon Building
607 Third Avenue at northwest corner of James Street

The Lyon Building led a charge of commercial development along Third Avenue when it was erected in 1910. The Yukon Investment Company, cashing in booty from the Klondike Gold Rush, financed the substantial six-story structure that boasted five floors of office space above a ground level of retail shops. Ornamentation was reserved mostly for a splash of terra-cotta along the top floor of the Chicago Style building that is made of reinforced concrete faced in brick. 


King County Courthouse
516 Third Avenue at southeast corner of James Street

King County got its first courthouse in the 1870s but Seattle was growing so fast after the Alaskan gold rush that plans were hatched for a third house of justice by the early 1900s. This site was once the estate of Henry Yesler which the City had purchased after the founder’s death in 1892. Architect Augustus Warren Gould submitted a proposal for a 23-story tower that would handle any future growth; the county commissioners suggested three stories - they settled on five, in an H-plan. Gould created a Beaux Arts confection using as much local material and craftsmen as possible. Granite was quarried in Snohomish County and even though interior marble was shipped from Alaska it was shaped by a Tacoma Company. After dedication on May 4, 1916 the price tag was $1,271,645.83. Six more floors of space came along in 1929 and thanks to occasional updates the building is still serving as a courthouse after nearly a century. 

Morrison Hotel
509 Third Avenue

This eclectic building was erected in 1908 as the original home of the Arctic Club, constructed on plans from James Schack and Daniel Huntington. Although the Pacific Builder and Engineer magazine was moved to proclaim in its September 14, 1912 issue that the building was the “richest and most commodious home of any social organization west of Chicago,” the Arctic Club was on the move by 1917 and the building became the Morrison Hotel. In recent years the 190-unit Morrison has provided emergency shelter and services to disabled homeless adults in Seattle. 

Frye Apartments
223 Yesler Way at southwest corner of Third Avenue

George F. Frye, a German immigrant, was on the banks of Puget Sound helping Henry Yesler build his steam-powered sawmill in the early 1850s and was still contributing to Seattle with this elegant eleven-story hotel nearly sixty years later. Along the way Frye and his wife Louisa, the daughter of city founders Arthur and Mary Denny, opened the town’s first meat market, helmed Seattle’s first legitimate stage at the Frye Opera House and never stopped developing hotels and civic projects. The Frye Hotel, officially named for Louisa, was another creation of Charles Herbert Bebb and Louis Leonard Mendel, fashioned from brick and terra-cotta. But even Seattle’s grandest hotel couldn’t keep the central business district from shifting northward and by the 1970s the Frye Hotel was doing duty as low income housing. 


Smith Tower
506 Second Avenue at northeast corner of Yesler Way

As hard as it is to believe now there was a passionate debate over the merits of a new typewriter innovation in 1895 - the typist could now see his work. At the Union Typewriter Company management officials hotly contested the merits of the new typing methods. The four Smith brothers were convinced that the future growth of writing machines depended on seeing the lines. Their partners with whom they had merged in 1893, Remington, Caligraph & Densmore wanted to make typewriters the way they had since introducing the first commercial typewriter in 1873. The Smiths left and formed the L.C. Smith Brothers Typewriting Company in 1903. Back in 1887 Lyman Cornelius Smith led his brothers Wilbert, Monroe and Hurlbut into the typewriting business to finance the development of a typewriter able to use both upper and lower case letters without shifting. The Smith-Premier typewriter from Syracuse, New York spread the Smith name to offices around the world. In 1909 Smith set out out erect a run-of-the-mill 14-story office tower in Seattle but his son, Burns Lyman Smith, convinced him to build taller and make a statement against rival city Tacoma. The resulting 489-foot was the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River when it was completed in 1914 and held the title until 1931; Smith Tower remained the highest structure on the West Coast until the Space Needle rose in 1962. The lower two floors are dressed in granite and the other 36 stories are sheathed in white terra-cotta that stays so clean the building has only been washed once, in 1976.

Interurban Building
102 Occidental Way South at southeast corner of Yesler Way

William Rankin Ballard, known as Captain for his command of the the vessel Zephyr that plied the waters between Seattle and Olympia, founded the town of Ballard that was annexed to Seattle in 1907. He led the formation of the Seattle National Bank whose investors desired to construct the finest business block in Seattle in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1889. A design contest was won by John Parkinson with a Romanesque Revival structure awash in arched openings and executed in pressed brick, stone and terra-cotta. The distinct horizontal divisions of the six-story composition reflect the varying thickness of the walls as required by post-fire codes. Ballard also had a hand in the town’s street railways and the building housed Seattle’s first interurban railway system until it went bankrupt in 1902. A recent restoration has brought the commercial block back to its 19th century splendor, including the lion’s head surveying the curved corner entrance.   


Waterfall Garden Park
northwest corner of Second Avenue and Main Street

In 1907, using $100 borrowed from a friend, 19-year old James E. Casey started the American Messenger Company, making deliveries around Seattle on foot and by bicycle. In 1913 a Ford Model T was employed for the first time and in 1919 when the company expanded beyond Seattle it was renamed the United Parcel Service. Casey started the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 1948 in honor of his mother and the foundation funded this remembrance to UPS workers in 1977. Masao Kinoshita designed the Waterfall Garden Park as a space for quiet reflection.

Seattle Fire Department Headquarters
301 Second Avenue at southwest corner of Main Street

With ten bays this firehouse sheltered Fire Station #10 beginning in 1928 and has long been the headquarters of the Seattle Fire Department Headquarters. The active squad has moved out and been replaced by historic fire-fighting apparatus of the Last Resort Fire Department Museum. 


State Building
300-314 Occidental Avenue South at southeast corner of Main Street

This ornate Victorian commercial building was built in 1890-1891 for the Schwababacher Company, purveyors of clothing, groceries, building materials and hardware. It was intended as a warehouse but wound up as the company headquarters. Architect Elmer Fisher adapted the brawny Richardsonian Romanesque style for the structure that includes such hallmarks of Henry Hobson Richardson’s work as bold arches, textured brickwork and columnettes grouped in threes. Today the building has been merged with the Burke Building, constructed in 1900, and occupies the entire east side of the Occidental Mall.  

Union Trust Building
southwest corner of Occidental Avenue South and Main Street

Warren Porter Skillings and James N. Comer were Boston architects who worked in Seattle after the Great Fire of 1889 and designed this substantial commercial building for wholesale businesses in 1893. They chose light gray brick to complement the white sandstone base, a pioneering choice in downtown Seattle.In the 1960s the Union Trust Building also led the way in rehabilitation as it was the first Skid Row building to be revived. 

Globe Hotel
310 First Avenue at southeast corner of Main Street

This Romanesque Revival brick-and-stone commercial block began life in 1891 as the Marshall-Walker Building. Mitchell, Lewis & Staver Company was an early tenant, selling engines, boilers and mill machinery. Founded in 1882 the company is still in business although far from downtown Seattle where the demand for heavy machinery has withered significantly. The Seattle Quilt Company moved in during 1926 and stayed a half-century and the Globe Hotel operated from the 1898 until the 1960s in the north end of the building. In 1973 the Elliott Bay Book Company moved into the ground floor and transformed the space into one of America’s leading independent bookstores. 


Grand Central Hotel
208 First Avenue South at northeast corner of Main Street

Watson Carvosso Squire was a New Yorker who left an Ohio law practice to join up with Union Army and served as an officer with General William Tecumseh Sherman. His interest in Washington began after the Civil War ended and he was employed by the Remington Arms Company. He lit out for Seattle in 1879 and when he was 46 years old he became Governor of the Territory of Washington and when the state joined the Union Squire was elected to two terms as a Republican to the United States Senate. He developed the south part of what was known as the Squire-Latimer Block when it was constructed in 1889 as the home for his opera house. In 1897 the red brick building trimmed in rough sandstone was reconfigured as the Grand Central Hotel to accommodate the gold hunters on their way north to the Yukon. In the1970s the commercial building, designed by Nelson Comstock and Carl Troetsche around a grand sandstone archway, was one of the first Pioneer Square buildings to be renovated. 

Central Saloon
207 First Avenue South

Thomas Watson opened the doors to the Watson Bros. Famous Restaurant in April of 1892, setting the course for Seattle’s “oldest saloon.” Over the years it did time as a cafe, a post office, and a brothel.

Maynard Building
119 First Avenue at northwest corner of Washington Street

This Victorian brick-and-stone structure is the handiwork of Albert Wickersham who was a New York architect sent to Seattle to supervise work on the Denny Hotel in 1888 and stayed to practice after the Great Fire of 1889. The stylish corner building was completed in 1892 as the home of the Dexter Horton and Company Bank but took the name of David “Doc” Maynard in 1907. One of Seattle’s earliest pioneers, Maynard claimed much of the land south of today’s Yesler Way and served as the town’s physician, surgeon, notary public, clerk, school superintendent, realtor, attorney, Indian agent and justice of the peace. Maynard headed West in 1850, abandoning his wife and family after discovering she had an adulterous affair. His wife never divorced him, however, and she showed up in Seattle in 1872 to claim half his land and stayed with Maynard and his current wife. Doc Maynard became known around town as the man “with two wives,” a situation he extricated himself by dying the following year of liver disease. His funeral was one of the best -attended in the history of Seattle. 

State Hotel/Delmar Building
112 South Washington Street at northeast corner of First Avenue

Herman Steinmann designed two buildings, the Terry and Kittinger, with identical facades in 1889. Indeed the two were joined into a single entity, the State Hotel where, as the sign says, you could have once picked up a room for 75 cents.

Terry-Denny Building
109-115 First Avenue South at northwest corner of Washington Street

Architects Edwin Walker Houghton and Charles Willard Saunders designed this post-fire building in 1889 that carries the names of city founders Charles Terry and Arthur Denny. Now mostly apartment lofts, for many years it operated as the Northern Hotel.

Schwabacher Building
southwest corner of South First Avenue and Yesler Way

Before prospectors were allowed to jump into the Klondike Gold Rush they were typically required by the Canadian government to have provisions that would last a full year. One of the favorite stopping places for supplies was Schwabacher’s, started back in 1860 in Walla Walla by Abraham, Sigmund and Louis Schwabacher. Their brother-in-law, Bailey Gatzert, was sent to open Seattle operations in 1869 and in 1876 the merchants constructed the second brick building in Seattle, hailed as the finest structure north of San Francisco. The building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1899 but the company wharf survived (the only one on the waterfront so spared) and sales commenced within 16 days in a temporary structure.