AKA: Colman Block #2, Downtown Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Donovan and Meany, Architects (firm); Hewitt / Daly Architects (firm); Loveless, Arthur L., Architect (firm); Meany, Stephen J., Architect (firm); Tidemand, August, Architect (firm); Wyatt Stapper Architects (firm); David M. Hewitt (architect); Arthur Lamont Loveless (architect); Stephen Joseph Meany (architect); August Tidemand (architect); Scott Wyatt (architect)

Dates: constructed 1889-1890

6 stories, total floor area: 205,521 sq. ft.

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801 1st Avenue
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98104-1404

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The Colman Building stood at 801-821 1st Avenue.

Building History

Erected for the influential Seattle businessman, James Murray Colman (1832-1906), the building took many years to complete between 1889-1904. Various stylistic vocabularies have been used on the Colman Block, starting with the Richardsonian Romanesque Revival to the Chicago Style to, finally, Art Deco. According to architectural historian, Dennis A. Andersen, the first two floors were composed of fire-resistant, stucco-faced brick and designed by architect Stephen Meany in 1889 and opened in 1890; this original section of the building had arched windows separated by piers on the second floor, cast iron columns on the first; as the building occupied a site sloping down from east to west, the basement lay exposed on its west facade (on Post Avenue). In 1904, Tidemand, supervised the design and construction of a complete remodeling of the first two floors and addition of four new floors on top of these; all arched windows were replaced with trabeated ones, matching the openings on the four new stories. He resurfaced the original stucco of floors one and two with rusticated masonry. Widened courses separated floors two and three and five and six. A wide cornice topped the new sixth story. The first tenant of the expanded Colman Building was Mayer Brothers, wholesale jewelers, who occupied space on the upper floors between 1904-1926. They moved to the entire second floor of the Mann Building on the northwest corner of the 3rd Avenue and Union Street in 11/1926. (See "Jeweler to move into Mann Building," Seattle Daily Times, 11/21/1926, p. 18.)

In 2012, Colman Properties Limited Partners, owned the Colman Block.

Another building, located to the west of the original Colman Building across Post Alley, was built in and called the "Colman Annex." This four-story building was erected

Building Notes

This six-story building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in part for its historic importance as a commercial center. As it was one of the first substantial buildings completed after the 1889 Fire (along with the Holyoke Building), the Colman Block housed some of Seattle's most important businesses c. 1891, including the city's Wells, Fargo and Company Bank office; Historylink.org noted: "Polk’s Seattle City Directory of 1891 also lists Dexter Horton & Co [bank]. on the corner of Columbia and Front streets; Dimock & Cheasty, Hatters and Men’s Furnishers at 807; Stimson Brothers Boots and Shoes at 815; J. M. Land & Co., druggists, at 817; and Seattle Hardware Company at 819-823, corner of Marion Street. Thomson & White, Engineers, were at 19 in the Colman Building; Stearns Manufacturing Company, G. T. Mills Salesman, were at 29; James Pincus, Hop Dealers, at 48. Lawyers J. K. Brown and J. H. Elder at 3; Howe & Corson at 14; Moore & Turner at 46; Albert Steffan at 48. Manufacturing Representatives J.H. Kunzie were at 44 and A. J. Stevens and A. J. Thompson were at 49. James Colman’s office as manager of the Cedar River Coal Co. was listed at 54 Columbia." (See Dotty DeCoster, "Colman Building (Seattle)", Historylink.org Essay 8708, appeared 07/27/2008, accessed 01/14/2010)

A main tenant was the Northwest Trust and Safe Deposit Company, which maintained a large office at 94 Columbia Street in 1901. Northwest Trust printed the postcard of the Colman Building illustrated on this page.

An important tenant of the Colman Building was the US Customs House; increased shipping trade increased the needs of the US Customs agents for office space. Customs operated in the Colman Block, moving to larger quarters in the Lumberman's Exchange Building and then back to the Colman Building by 09/1904, again, because new space had been found for storing goods to be appraised in the basement. According to a Seattle Times article of 09/06/1904, ship masters preferred the Colman Building's location on 1st Avenue, nearer to the docks; shipping brokers also clustered in the building to be near to the Customs Office: the Times reported: "Several brokers have also rented offices in the Colman Block on the same floor with the customs house." (See "New Offices for Customs Men," Seattle Times, 09/06/1904, p. 9.)

The Seattle grocer, Louch, Augustine and Company operated a market in the Colman Block from 1894 until 1907.

The Rochester Clothing Company, active in the clothing of Klondike miners, had a retail store in the building from 1897 until 1899. Around 1905, the Stetson Brothers and Company occupied a corner of the Colman Block.

The Colman Building occupied a 24,066-square-foot lot, and, in 2012, contained 205,521 square feet, 138,294 net. It had a 53,280-square-foot basement, 38,059 square feet of retail space and 114,182 of office space (all measured in gross square feet). The building had an assessed value of $15,027,000 in 2012.


The Colman Building was drastically altered in 1904-1906 by Norwegian-born architect August Tidemand (d. 07/20/1905). The relationship between Tidemand and building ownership became strained. On 09/06/1904, the Seattle Times carried an article titled: "Architect Wants His Money." The article indicated: "August Tidemand, an architect of the city, this afternoon began suit against J.M. Colman for $9,000 in wages alleged to be due. Tidemand claims to have drawn the plans for the four-story improvement recently added to the Colman Block on First Avenue and that Mr. Colman accepted the plans but refused to pay the architect's bill." (See "Architect Wants His Money," Seattle Times, 09/06/1904, p. 9.)

By the 1920s, the building began to show its age, and the family ownership (led by James Colman's sons Laurence J. and George A. Laurence) commissioned Arthur Loveless to remodel the retail spaces on 1st Avenue, i.e., the bank building at 801 1st Avenue.

During the historic preservation vogue of the 1970s, new owners embarked on a thorough renovation of the Colman Block. Taking advantage of generous tax breaks set aside for adaptive reuse projects, CHG-City Center Investors and Carma Developers bought the building in 10/1978 and finished phase 1 of a renovation by 1982 (supervised by architect David Hewitt of Hewitt-Daly Architects). This first phase tackled structural issues and the renovation of all public areas. This included the installation of three new elevators, updating lobby and bathroom spaces, seismic upgrading of the foundations, walls and cornice, and the installation a new roof. Attention was also paid to remodeling offices on the 5th floor.

A second phase, completed in 05/1984 by ZGF Architects Seattle Office and People for Public Places, modernized the 1st Avenue retail spaces and finished all upgrades to meet current seismic and fire codes. Wyatt Stapper Architects was retained to remodel office spaces as tenants left in the later 1980s.

National Register of Historic Places: 72001272 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

Seattle Historic Landmark: ID n/a

King County Assessor Number: 8591400005 Department of Assessments eReal Property GIS Center parcel report GIS Center parcel viewer GIS Center iMap viewer

PCAD id: 5279