Brief History of Butler Building in Seattle

The Butler Building, also known as Butler Block, is located at the corner of Second Avenue and James Street in Pioneer Square. The story of this building could be traced back to 1875. At first, this property was owned by Hillory Butler, whose surname became the name of this building. At that time, Butler Block (Courtesy UW library Special Collection order number:PSE080) was a three-story wooden building, and it was burned in the Seattle Fire in 1889.

In 1889 to1890, Guy C. Phinney and Daniel C. Jones partnered to finance the new building, which designed as an office building by Parkinson and Evers. The new building (Courtesy UW library Special Collection order number: BAB03)  was built of bricks and stone blocks, and it has a Romanesque portal with curved “BUTLER BLOCK” on its top. In 1894, this building converted to the Butler Hotel, and became one of Seattle’s most elegant hotels, which was a favorite place for newly-rich miners from the Alaskan Gold Fields, as well as celebrities and politicians. The hotel owned the advanced equipment system in that time, and two more stories were added in 1903 (Courtesy of the Seattle Public Library Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Digital Collection)

During the Prohibition, because of the flouting of alcohol laws, the Rose Room of the Hotel was closed for one year from 1929. Soon after, the Butler Hotel was closed on September, 1933 due to the Depression. Eventually, the property was auctioned on January, 1934.

In the late 1930s, the upper 5 floors were removed and remodeled into a garage. Only the first two stories remained its original appearance. The garage was owned by Sam Israel’s Samis Foundation from 1997 to 2001, who is a major Downtown Seattle landowner. The garage was remodeled again and serves as parking lot for public. Nowadays, the garage( was owned by Walton Street Capital, L L C, of Chicago, IL..

About historical pictures, I found that it is not easy to find pictures before the hotel period. And some paintings on postcards tend to have similar views and details about the building, which might come from a same one. However, there are still some differences between these similar paintings. This might be the bias that we should avoid.




4. “‘The Butler Garage'”, The Argus, January 6, 1934, p. 2.

5. Grant, Frederic James, “History of Seattle, Washington with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers“, American Publishing and Engraving Co., 1891, p. 214.



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