[graphic heading] Seattle: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, National Park Servicer

Pioneer Building
The Pioneer Building helps mark the heart of Seattle's early commercial development. 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 1889 turned downtown into ashes. The foundation for the new Pioneer Building had already been excavated by the time fire swept through the city, but the ensuing construction crunch slowed the completion of the Pioneer Building. When it was completed in 1892, this beautiful building of red brick and terra cotta was arguably the finest of the 60 "fireproof" Richardsonian-Romanesque designs created by architect Elmer H. Fisher. The Pioneer Building served as a "prestige office address" in the 1890s, in fact, 48 different mining firms had offices in the building during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. During Prohibition, the building housed "Seattle's finest speakeasy," but later, as the city's business core moved northward, the Pioneer Building and the adjoining neighborhood fell into decay. After languishing economically for decades, the area experienced a renaissance in the 1970s. Part of this rebirth, which continues presently, grew out of the neighborhood's designation as a historic district and the financial-aid of the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program. In 1978, the Pioneer Building and the adjoining Iron Pergola and Totem Pole gained National Historic Landmark status, recognizing their significant role in the history of Seattle.

The Pioneer Building, a National Historic Landmark, is located across the street from Pioneer Square at the corner of First Ave. and Yesler Way. The building is open to the public during regular business hours.

The Pioneer Building is highlighted in an online lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Park Service program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

Pioneer Building Pioneer Building
Photograph by Jennifer Meisner, Seattle Urban Conservation Division

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