History Podcasts

Pioneer Building

Pioneer Building

The Pioneer Building, a National Historic Landmark located across the street from Pioneer Square-Skid Road Historic District at the corner of First Avenue and Yesler Way, helps mark the heart of Seattle's early commercial district.It stands on the ground where Henry Yesler established the first sawmill of the area in 1853, thereby providing the city with its initial industrial base.He sold the land in the late 1880s, just before The Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889 turned downtown into charcoal. Although by the time the fire swept through the city, the foundation for the new Pioneer Building had already been excavated.The ensuing construction boom slowed the completion of the Pioneer Building. When it was completed in 1892, the beautiful building of red brick and terra cotta was arguably the finest "fireproof" Richardsonian-Romanesque designs created by architect Elmer H. Fisher.In the 1890s, the Pioneer Building was the office address of the Elite, in fact, as many as 48 different mining companies had offices in the building during The Klondike Gold Rush of 1896.During Prohibition, a Seattle speakeasy called the building home, but later, when the city's business core moved northward, the Pioneer Building and the adjoining neighborhood fell into decay.After suffering financially for decades, the area experienced a rebirth in the 1970s. The Pioneer Building and the adjoining Iron Pergola and Totem Pole, located in the Pioneer Square-Skid Road Historic District, gained National Historic Landmark status in 1978, and was recognized for their significant roles in the history of Seattle.


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