AKA: Schwabacher Building #7, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - industrial buildings - warehouses

Designers: Bebb and Mendel, Architects (firm); Charles Herbert Bebb ; Louis Leonard Mendel Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1904-1904, demolished 1905

8 stories

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401 1st Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98104-2801

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Southwest corner of First Avenue South and Jackson Street.

This warehouse, located at 401 1st Avenue South (on the southwest corner of 1st Avenue South and South Jackson Street) was part of the Seattle business empire of the Schwabacher Family which included a mercantile business, warehouses, real estate, and other investments. The firm suffered three fires and lost buildings in 1889, 1892 and 1905. After the 06/27/1892 fire, the Schwabacher Hardware business was spun off as a separate company from Schwabacher Brothers and Company, what had long been a prosperous, general mercantile business in Seattle. While they were separate business entities, it appears that the Schwabachers maintained operations of both businesses in one building. This building housed both the wholesale operations of the general merchandise company and the hardware firm. An article in the Seattle Times of 04/02/1904 detailed plans for the new warehouse: "The Schwabacher Hardware Company has plans completed for a large warehouse at the corner of First Avenue and Jackson Street. The building will be eight stories high and one of the largest on the Coast. It will be used entirely by the company. The structure will be so arranged that a fire on any one floor will be confined to that floor and the water poured onto it will be drained off without connecting with the floors below. This is provided by sloping floors." (See "New Block Goes Up in Fire," Seattle Times, 02/12/1905, p. 14.) Another article of 08/1904 reported on the building's progress: "The Schwabacher Hardware Building, located on First Avenue, north of the coal bunkers is now just about completed. It is four stories high, and of handsome brick. As soon as the bunkers have been torn down, it is the intention of the firm to place four additional stories on, thus making it an eight-story proposition." (See "New Haven Hotel Sold," Seattle Times, 08/13/1904, p. 7.) In 02/1905, the Times noted that the building had been completed: "The building was completed a few days before the beginning of this year. Immediately upon its completion the firm commenced moving its stock from the old building near Yesler Way. About half of the stock had been removed." (See "New Block Goes Up in Fire," Seattle Times, 02/12/1905, p. 14.) Unfortunately, the Schwabachers experienced another devastating fire in one of the their buildings, the third between 1889-1905.

The Schwabacher Hardware Company, Warehouse was notable for the Sullivanesque ornamentation surrounding its front door; Charles Bebb had worked for architects, Adler and Sullivan, in Chicago, IL, between c. 1888-1893. In a general way, it resembled some large Chicago office buildings and warehouses being constructed with masonry structural systems during the 1890s.

Demolished. Despite efforts to design a fire-resistant structure, a blaze occurred. Following electrical work being done on the building's third floor, a fire began to burn on this story's northwest corner. The fire was spotted at 11:40 on 02/11/1905, but had burned for a while before being detected. By 2:00 a.m. on 02/12/1905, heavy timbers supporting each floor had burned and collapsed from top to bottom. The entire south wall and the upper parts of the east wall had collapsed by that time. To add to the conflagration, the third floor housed boxes of shell cartridges that exploded shooting glass out of windows. Explosives were stored in the basement, and the Seattle Fire Department successfully defended the lower two stories so that no explosion occurred. Because the firm had suffered two serious previous fires, they had taken out fire insurance to cover most of the loss. The warehouse was about half-filled, as not all of the contents of Schwabacher Brothers Building #6, completed at 105 1st Avenue South in 1893, also had a great deal of the inventory. The Seattle Times stated: "This was worth, at a low estimate, $250,000. The building was damaged at least to an extent of $100,000, bringing the total financial havoc wrought by the fire up to $350,000. The stock and building were fully insured." (See "New Block Goes Up in Fire," Seattle Times, 02/12/1905, p. 14.) After the fire, business operations were again consolidated at the smaller previous building, where plans were formulated to rebuild the 401 1st Avenue South warehouse on the same site.

PCAD id: 3660