The Pioneer Building

Located on the corner of 1st Avenue and James Street, the Pioneer Building has become one of the most iconic buildings in the city of Seattle. The captivating history of the Pioneer Building began before it was even constructed, when Henry Yesler built Seattle’s first sawmill on the spot in 1853.

Sketch of Henry Yesler’s first sawmill,



Producing low quality lumber (by Yesler’s own account) the mill operated 24 hours a day and sent lumber as far as Alaska and Hawaii ( Soon other, more technically advanced sawmills began to crop up in the area, expanding the Seattle lumber industry rapidly. The role that Yesler’s sawmill played in establishing the city of Seattle cannot be denied; it launched the lumber industry in Seattle which helped to create the city that we know today.

By the beginning of 1889, Yesler had hired architect Elmer H. Fisher to construct the Pioneer Building, and excavations began soon after. But, on June 6, 1889, the Great Seattle Fire swept through Seattle’s commercial district, razing it the ground. Remarkably, the excavation for the Pioneer Building along with Elmer Fisher’s drawings survived the fire, and construction was completed on the building in 1892 (

(Fisher’s drawings, University of Washington Digital Collections)

The Pioneer Building when it was Puget Sound National Bank in 1900, Pacific Coast Architecture Database

Some of the building’s first tenants included The Puget Sound National Bank of Seattle, the Union Trunk Line, and the King County Medical Society.



The Pioneer building during renovations in 1974






The Pioneer Building has been used for a number of purposes and housed a variety of different companies throughout its 125 years. Between 1897 and 1908 , amid the Klondike Gold Rush, it became a hub for mining companies, and it was “Seattle’s finest speakeasy” in the 1920s during Prohibition (Pacific Coast Architecture Database). The building began to fall into disrepair in the 1930s, continuing into the 1940s and 1950s. During the late 1950s, however, support mounted for renovation and rehabilitation of Pioneer Square, with the Pioneer Building being one of the main focuses. In 1970 it was added to the National Historic Places list, and saw significant renovation by 1980.

The Pioneer Building has changed hands three times since 2001. After being acquired by 600 Pioneer LLC in 2001, it was sold to Sun Capital Corporation in 2014 for $12.3 million. Finally, a Chicago-based real estate company, called Level Office, bought the building in 2015 for $20.5 million, and it now houses offices for small businesses.


During its 125 years of existence, the Pioneer Building has carved a place in Seattle history and created a legacy that will endure for years to come.


A History on Harborview Medical Center

For my Seattle Building History report, I chose Harborview Medical Center. The hospital is owned by King County, and was built as a two-story six-bed King County Welfare Hospital in 1877. The hospital first moved to Georgetown by 1906, and had 225 patient beds. The hospital was originally named, “King County Hospital” and was renamed after its second move in 1931. This was when the center wing of the current hospital was completed. I had much difficulty locating a map of the building prior to both moves.

This link shows a map of the present hospital:

This is a postcard, shortly after the hospital was moved in 1931:

In my research, what I found most interesting was “Harborview Hall,” which served as the base for the University of Washington’s Nursing School. It is across from Harborview Medical Center, and opened in the 1930’s. In the late 1940’s, the first African Americans enrolled in the nursing program, and lived in Harborview Hall

Property of Harborview Medical Center Board of Trustees


King County’s website, on December 19, 2016, states that the county is working on preserving Harborview Hall, and to establish the building as “a landmark building in the heart of Seattle’s hospital district.” Unfortunately, I was not able to find any updated information regarding the preservation of Harborview Hall.

Here is a more current photo of Harborview Hall from King County’s website:

-Stephanie H.

From a Lumber Mill’s Grocery to a Neapolitan Pizzeria

Modern satellite image

First built in the early 1900’s Taylor Mill’s Grocery appeared along Lake Washington’s Southern shore. Built and owned by Stanford Taylor, who ran a lumber mill around present day Rainier Avenue, the small grocery store supplied food and other goods for the 100 mill workers and their families which lived in the surrounding area. Taylor Mill’s Grocery, located at “the corner of 68th and Rainier,” served the community not just as a grocery store but also “as [a] post office, watering hole, and unofficial community center.” It was a surprisingly successful grocery store in the developing Rainier Beach region, and managed to stay open into the 1930’s.

The Barlows-Lakeside Tavern

After officially closing in 1937, the building remained mostly unused. In the 1950’s the building was converted into the Lakeside Tavern, becoming an official ‘watering hole’ for the Rainier Beach community. During the years between the 1930’s and 50’s, the building switched ownership and by the time the tavern was opened by the Barlow family the building was owned by the Punsala family. The tavern remained in operation for over 40 years, and was a well-known bar in the Rainier beach region, if the number of patrons returning to the now Pizzeria recounting stories of drunken absurdity is anything to go by. The tavern was also well known due to the fact that the sign hanging outside on the side of the building was upside down. Vince Mottola, current owner of Pizzeria Pulcinella, recounts the disagreement between the owner of the Lakeside Tavern, Mr. Barlow, and the man installing the sign, stating that the two came to a disagreement over payment and in protest over receiving only half of the agreed payment the man installing the sign flipped one side of it upside down and refused to correct it unless he was paid the other half. Exhausted by the repeated exchanges between the sign company and himself, the owner left the sign upside down and from then on it was known throughout the community as the tavern with the upside-down sign, a tradition that Pizzeria Pulcinella’s owners honor and they continue the tradition with their own sign.

The building remained vacant for over 10 years slowly deteriorating away, until the Mottola Family, which have owned and operated the Vince’s Italian restaurant chain for around 60 years, chose to expand their business and open an authentic and verified, Neapolitan style Pizzeria in December of 2008. Surprising many in the community as it was rumored that the Punsala family who owned the building (also known as Kamagon Associate LLC), were going to have the building torn down. But luckily Vince convinced
the owners to allow him and his other business partners, Fred Martichuski and David Dorough, to open a restaurant instead. Not only have they preserved the building itself, but also, they have managed to install the previous Lakeside Tavern’s sign inside of their restaurant preserving its history as well. Pizzeria Pulcinella has now been in operation for over 8 years and “has been ‘certified Neapolitan’ by the Verace Pizza Napolitana Association since 2009.” And hopefully it will be open for many more!

Parrington Hall

Thanks to the University of Washington's Special Collections.

Thanks to the University of Washington’s Special Collections.

Parrington Hall was build 6 years after Denny hall making it apart of the original campus (see map below). The building was finished in 1902 and was called the Science Hall. A contract, now within University of Washington’s Special Collections, shows that the owner of the land at the time, Auton Bereus Witnesseth, agreed to let the University of Washington build the Science hall on his land. The document was very hard for me to understand but I interpreted that Witnesseth was going to pay for the building and if he could not the land would go to the University.

Thanks to the University of Washington’s Special Collections.

UW1 <– map from 1909, thanks to the University of Washington’s microfilm collections.

Both the department of Botany and department of Electrical Engineering started in this building and eventually moved to other buildings The Department of Electrical Engineering moved there operations in 1910 and the Department of Botany moved later in 1930’s. Now the building is a center for Daniel J. Evans School of public police and governance.  In 1931 the building was remodeled by John Graham Architect. They installed a new sewer, re-shingled the roof, waterproofed the building and many more. I have read other resources that state it was remolded another time but could not find any documentation of the remodel.

The Washington Hall – A welcoming space for immigrants to Seattle

Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Washington Hall was built in 1908, and designed by Victor W. Voorhees. Commissioned by the Danish Brotherhood of Seattle, it was the architect’s first large project in a career that would eventually span 25 years and over a hundred buildings in the city. The Hall was created to serve as a lodge for the Brotherhood, as well as a dance hall and performance space. In addition, the back of the Hall was a lodging house intended for new immigrants to the city. The Mission style building boasted comforts of a bygone era: the plans include a billiards room, smoking rooms, a parlor, library, and a ladies dressing rooms. It also uses an interesting architectural feature to illuminate called a light well, which was an open shaft flanked by windows in the center of the lodging area.

Courtesy of Special Collections UW

For more than a century, the Washington Hall hosted a variety of people and events. The Danish Brotherhood sponsored plays, dances, and lectures for the community. A particularly compelling speaker was a member of the Danish Resistance during WWII whom shared his experiences in 1946. Multiple fraternal orders, ladies societies, ethnic groups and religious organizations held functions at the Washington Hall from its earliest days. Italians, African American veterans, Serbians, and Druids are just a few examples of the diverse crowds that enjoyed the Hall. Musical greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Domino, and Duke Ellington also performed on the Washington Hall’s stage.

The Washington Hall was sold in the 1970’s and was leased to various organizations. Most notably the religious cult Children of God occupied the building for a couple years, using it as their base in Seattle. Since 2008, the Washington Hall was taken over by Historic Seattle, extensively renovated, and now is on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Bus(c)h Hotel

The “Modern Fireproof” Bush Hotel as seen today

When you come out of the station in International District today and head east, you will probably spot the “Modern Fire Proof” Bush Hotel. Today, it is Section 8 housing for lower income residents, but it did not start out this way.

A clipping from the Seattle Daily Times October 10, 1915

In fact, it didn’t even start out as the “Bush” Hotel. When it was built in 1915, William Chappell named it the “Busch” Hotel, as can be seen in the newspaper clipping advertising the new hotel below.  Beginning the very next year in 1916, women’s clubs began hosting events in the Busch Hotel, including a post card party. After the name was changed in 1921, it was renovated with “local products,” likely local lumber and finishes.

The “Busch” Hotel is seen down the street. Property of the Museum of History and Industry

In 1926, according to an article in the Seattle Times from 1976, one Kemekichi Shibayama leased the building for thirty-five thousand dollars and reconditioned it for sixty-five thousand. However, as the Depression and Second World War came up, Mr. Shibayama had to give up the hotel for a time.

In 1978, articles in the Seattle Times began discussing the renovations of the International District overall. The Bush Hotel (wrongfully referred to as a “pre-1910 building”) was being looked at as a new community center as the upper levels had not been used for years. City officials were concerned about the integrity of the building. As of September, 1978, the Times announced plans to convert the hotel into a mixed purposed building including residential rooms and community spaces as it had been acquired by the city and they had gained federal funding to create more affordable housing developments in the District.

The Bush Hotel c. 1925

Today, the Hotel still stands as one of the most prominent buildings in the International District, having survived through multiple renovations since its original opening in 1915, and now serves as affordable housing.

The Bush Hotel as it underwent innovations in 2005

One Theater, Many Names

1300 3rd Avenue, Seattle, WA is the site of a Pantages Theater that is no longer standing today. Alexander Pantages, the “king of vaudeville” commissioned Benjamin Marcus Priteca (23 years old at the time) to design and build the theater in 1915. Pantages liked Priteca’s work so much he hired him to create many more theaters and stage houses all across the Pacific Northwest.

Pantages was a beautiful theater designed with classical and Renaissance architecture. The building was lavishly ornamented, but also not as expensive as it was made to look. This was a unique theatre because it hosted traditional plays, vaudeville acts and also played moving pictures (films) with a live orchestra.

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Historian Chris Skullerud lists eight name changes for this theater, beginning with New Pantages, Follies (1931), 3rd Avenue (1931), Rex (1935), Mayfair (1935), New Rex (1936), and Palomar (1936-1965). It was unclear if these name changes were due to a change in management, or if these were colloquial terms for the theatre because there were so many Alexander Pantages theaters in the area.
Alexander Pantages died in 1936 and since his death the theater had (somewhat) consistently been called Palomar. In the pictures below the theater is located on Third and University. The map from the 1920s calls the theater Pantages, while the 1930s map calls it Rex Theatre.

As of 1936 the Pantages was officially the Palomar theater. Palomar hosted a number of vaudeville acts and was one of last vaudeville playhouses up until the 1950s. Pantages also hosted African-American musicians such as Bobby Tucker and Sammy Davis Jr., Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington. The last public show was “Annie Get Your Gun” performed in April of 1965. The Palomar was gutted and demolished to create a parking garage that year. The parking garage is still standing at 1300 3rd Avenue, Seattle, WA today.

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Basking in the panorama of the cascades

In the late 19th century realtors seeking out waterfront property in Seattle named an east side neighborhood Madrona, after the identically-named tree. In 1919 a single floor house was built located at a corner of the Madrona woods, at what is now 38th Ave. and East Columbia St. The house was well located with a fantastic view of Lake Washington as well as the Cascades from Gordon Ridge all the way to Mount Rainier! Being built only 30 years after the first house was erected in Madrona, it has had a long history in the neighborhood and is now a much different building than when it was first created. Aerial photographs from 1936 show a tiny structure obscured in the shadow of neighboring trees. 80 years later similar aerial photographs show a sizable building along with a lot of other development around.


1936 Aerial Photo



2016 Aerial Photo



1997 Remodeling Plans





While it is not clear how many changes happened between 1919 and 1997, remodeling plans from November of 1997 show the addition of an entire second floor with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 2 decks. Remodeling plans from 2002 show the upstairs master bedroom being converted into two separate bedrooms, with the addition of a closet and the removal of one of the two upstairs decks. The small office on the first floor seems to be the only room to be left in its original form from the pre-1997 design of the home.

2002 Remodeling Plans

Sales histories from 1997 to now confirm at least five different owners, including my family. My family bought and moved into this home in late 2011, since then my mother, brother and I have lived here. Pre-1997 documentation of the home is lacking and it seems that there were many address changes as well. I was not able to find mention of the original architect or occupants. I am glad to be enjoying the beautiful home, neighborhood and views just as every occupant previously has done. – RC

3761 E. Columbia St. as it stands today








View from the top deck

How to Survive the Test of Time: By Seattle’s Neptune Theatre



The Neptune 1929, Courtesy of Seattle Theatre Group

The Neptune Theatre, located on the corner of 45th and 13th ave in the University District, was built in 1921as part of a collection of neighborhood movie theaters owned by the Puritan Theatre Company. Its grandiose organ and accommodation for over 1,000 patrons earned it the reputation as the perfect place for a night out.

With the rapid rate of change in the film and entertainment industry, adaptation is crucial to survival. The Neptune changed ownership from the Puritan Theatre Group to Jensen von-Herberg Theatres, Evergreen State Amusement Corp., Sterling Theatres, Landmark Theatres, Landmark Theatres, and the current owners, the Seattle Theatre Group.

The Neptune 2011 Renovation, Courtesy of the Seattle Theatre Group

One short-coming I noticed with the resources I found was that, while I’m certain each new owner must have made some sort of change (cosmetic, technological, etc.), the only documented changes were more recent and large-scale, like the 2011 renovation that turned the Neptune from a movie theatre to a live, performance center. This lack of context made interpretation slightly tricky.


This assignment was good practice for “reading between the lines”. As a member of the present University District dwelling society, I know that is a cool place to be, especially because it has prevailed through many trying times in our nations economy. Coupling my knowledge as a citizen of the present with the historic documents available painted a picture of a hub for entertainment that has, despite all odds, withstood the test of time.

The Neptune, 1984, Courtesy of The Seattle Public Library

The Neptune, 2016, Courtesy of King County Department of Assessments




“Every Room a Corner Room”

If you’ve visited Seattle’s University District, you have probably noticed Hotel Deca, a towering structure located at the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and 45th Street NE. Its Art Deco style, boutique feel and proximity to the University draw guests today, just as they did when the hotel first opened in 1931.

Postcard advertising the Hotel Edmond Meany, ca. 1934 (Courtesy of UW Special Collections)

The idea for a hotel in the University District came from members of the community and local businesses under the University Hotel Operating Corporation, which raised $297,700 to buy the land and then further financed the construction through the sale of stocks and bonds. After amassing the required capital, the Hotel Corporation chose Robert C. Reamer to design what they envisioned to be a cultural and social landmark for the neighborhood. In keeping with their commitment to community engagement, the Hotel Corporation hosted a contest to name the new hotel, with the ultimate winning entry honoring Edmond S. Meany, a beloved professor, former state representative and local icon of the time.

Hotel Construction, from The Seattle Daily Times, May 3, 1931

Construction of The Hotel Edmond Meany began in 1930 and was extensively covered in The Seattle Daily Times, which featured several photos at various stages of the building’s construction, one of which is shown here. The structure is in the modernist Art Deco style and is primarily made of steel reinforced concrete, which was poured in place. Sixteen stories tall, the hotel featured nearly 150 rooms located around a central elevator shaft and stairwell – allowing the hotel to proudly boast that “every room is a corner room.” When the building opened on November 12, 1931, it was celebrated with a grand banquet and ball. The honored guest of the evening was Edmond S. Meany himself, who was the first person to sign the hotel registry.

House being moved to make way for the construction of a parking garage adjacent to the Hotel, April 1946 (Courtesy of MOHAI)

Lobby of the Hotel after renovation in 1997 (Courtesy of Assassi Productions for NBBJ)

Since its opening, the Edmond Meany has changed hands three times, but has always remained a hotel. While today the external structure looks much as it did in 1931, the interior has been redesigned several times. Notably, a renovation in the 1990s by Seattle architecture firm NBBJ sought to restore the 1930s style of the hotel by revealing older floors and columns to recapture the initial design of the building, which had been plastered over through the decades. The name has also shifted from the Edmond Meany Hotel to the Meany Tower Hotel to the University Tower Hotel – before attaining its current name, Hotel Deca, in 2008, when the building was acquired by Noble House Hotels and Resorts.

Hotel Deca today (Wikimedia Commons)

The hotel has served and continues to serve as an icon of the University District and a popular location for functions and meetings. Today much of the original majesty of this storied hotel still survives, so if you have the chance, go inside and have a look around the lobby!