Understanding Grand Central BLOCK
Left: Pioneer Square in 1958 and 2017.
Historical research and careful consideration form the foundations of any preservation project. Understanding the history of the area and the buildings themselves is how we incorporate stewardship into placemaking.
The Squire Latimer Building / Grand Central Hotel /
Grand Central on the Park
The Grand Central Building was one of the first buildings to rise out of the ashes of the 1889 Seattle fire that destroyed 29 blocks of the city’s commercial core. Designed by San Diego architects Comstock & Troetsche, the building originally was constructed as the Squire-Latimer office building, but by 1897, it was evident housing was needed in the district due to the Klondike and Nome Goldrushes, so it was converted into a 108-room hotel and renamed the Grand Central Hotel. The brick masonry building is an imposing Romanesque Revival/Victorian unreinforced masonry structure with load bearing brick masonry walls and cast iron columns. The building has a sandstone rusticated base framing a total of ten storefronts and a decorative arched entryway on the west facade. Typical storefronts are framed by pilasters made of rusticated stone blocks, each surmounted by a stone capital detailed with acanthus leaves. Above the storefronts, the pilasters change to red brick masonry and originally rose several feet above the roofline ending in decorative masonry parapets, all of which were lost in the 1949 earthquake. All three buildings on the Grand Central Block once faced an alleyway to the east from 1891 until the 1950s when urban renewal began, and buildings were demolished for parking lots. In 1971, Occidental Park replaced the parking lot and was transformed into an urban city park designed by Jones and Jones Landscape Architects, and has remained a central focus of the historic district to this day.
Gottstein Building / City Loan Building
Originally known as the Gottstein Building, the current City Loan building was constructed in 1903 as a narrow, thirty-three-foot single bay masonry load bearing structure with heavy timber columns and floors. The building was commissioned by M.K. Gottstein for storage of his wholesale liquor and cigar business. Owners changed hands after prohibition and between the 1920s and the 1970s occupants included The Chicago Belting Company (1924 – 1938) and the Washington Check Imprinting Company (1926-1944) and the North Pacific Bank Note Company (1926-1951). The current name comes from The City Loan office, a pawnbroker that occupied a significant portion of the building from 1938-1970. Various cafes and taverns have inhabited the storefront on 1st Ave as well as on the east façade facing the park.
BRUNSWICK-BALKE-COLLENDER BUILDING /
The Buttnick Building was built in 1909 during the Gold Rush growth spurt in Seattle for the Brunswick–Balke-Collender Company, which manufactured bar and billiards supplies. Records also show phonographs and tires were also manufactured and sold in the building. The company had moved out by the 1920s, and a decade later Harry Buttnick, began manufacturing water repellent in the building. The Buttnick Building also later housed the OK Loan Office and the Buttnick Jobbing and Investment Company. By the 1930s, retail tenants included Washington Cigar Store, United Shoe Repair, the Seaport Tavern, and a barber shop. In 1950, a gas violent gas explosion that killed one and injured others demolished the northwest corner of the building, taking out much of the west and north walls, but leaving the structure substantially in tact. The building was quickly rebuilt, and Buttnick Manufacturing converted the entire building into a factory for Driftwood Sportswear and Paul Bunyon Outerwear–which is the origin of the ghost signage seen on today’s storefronts.
Kathryn Rogers Merlino
Architectural Historian & Preservation Consultant
Associate Professor, Department of Architecture
Director, Center for Preservation and Adaptive Reuse (CPAR)