AKA: Yesler's Mill, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - industrial buildings - factories

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1852-1853

1 story

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600 1st Avenue
Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA 98104

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Henry L. Yesler erected Seattle's first sawmill in 1853. The steam-driven milling equipment and other mechanical components were shipped around the Cape Horn via San Francisco and then shipped again to Elliott Bay. After the Fire of 1889, Henry Yesler built his six-story Pioneer Building on the site of his sawmill.

Building History

This was one of the earliest buildings in Seattle, and a center for commerce in the pioneer days. It was the first lumber mill in the area, and it furnished the materials for all of the earliest wood-frame buildings in the city. Henry L. Yesler (1810-1892) migrated to Seattle, WA, from OH seeking to build a steam-powered sawmill. Historian Junius Rochester, in his biographical essay on David Swinson "Doc" Maynard (1808-1873), related that early Seattle settlers Maynard and Carson D. Boren (1824-1912) donated land to Yesler to encourage him to build his valuable facility near to their other real estate interests. He wrote: "When Henry L. Yesler stepped ashore at Seattle to assay the potential of a steam sawmill, Doc Maynard extended his hand to the bearded visitor and began his real estate sales pitch. Carson Boren and Maynard shifted the corner of their claim stakes to accommodate an area in the "Sag" for Yesler's steam mill, the first on Puget Sound." (See Junius Rochester, "Maynard, Dr. David Swinson (1808-1873)," Historylink.org Essay #315, 11/10/1998, accessed 08/08/2012.) In 1928, historian Clarence Bagley wrote of Yesler's operation: "In the fall of 1852 Henry L. Yesler came to Seattle with the expressed intention of putting up a sawmill on his claim north of Yesler Way... and the mill was built where the Mutual Life Building now stands, also extending across the street to the easterly margin of Pioneer Place. The boilers and saw were put in the place and then the lumber was sawed for the roof and sides of the building. In April it began cutting lumber, the first steam sawmill on Puget Sound....It could turn out but a few thousand feet in a day, but it supplied most of the financial lifeblood of the little community for a dozen years or more." (See Clarence Bagley, Pioneer Describes Life in City's Early Days," Seattle Times, 01/01/1928, p. 23.) He prospered in the new city and helped to build it, literally.

The cookhouse of the sawmill served multiple functions as a courthouse, meeting room as well as a dining hall.

Building Notes

The Puget Sound Directory and Guide to Washington Territory, 1872, listed the proprietor of Yesler's Mill as being "Perkins and Company." (See The Puget Sound Directory and Guide to Washington Territory, 1872, [Olympia, WA: Murphy and Harned, 1872], n.p.)

The same 1872 directory recorded D.M. Crane as a turner, working at the Yesler's Mill. (See The Puget Sound Directory and Guide to Washington Territory, 1872, [Olympia, WA: Murphy and Harned, 1872], n.p.)


The Yesler Sawmill was demolished.

PCAD id: 11690