AKA: Holyoke Block, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA; Holyoke, Richard, Building, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Bird and Dornbach, Architects (firm); Olson / Walker Architects (firm); Thomas G. Bird (architect/mechanical engineer); George Washington Dornbach (architect); James W.P. Olson (architect); Gordon Kendall Walker (architect)

Dates: constructed 1889-1890

6 stories, total floor area: 39,960 sq. ft.

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1018 1st Avenue
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98104-1008

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The Holyoke Building had an original address of 107 Spring Street. It was sited on the southeast corner of Spring Street and Front Street (later known as First Avenue); address also listed as 1018-1020 1st Avenue; Tax Parcel No.: 093900-0515 Legal Description: Lot 1, Blk. 12, Boren/Denny Add.

Building History

The New Brunswick-born lumberman, Richard Holyoke, Sr., (1832–d. 03/11/1906 in Bellingham, WA), commissioned the Seattle architectural firm of Bird and Dornbach (an association that lasted briefly from 1888-1890) to design this well-preserved office/retail building. Holyoke migrated out to the Washington Territory by 1860. By at least 1870, he had begun managing the sawmill of the Washington Mill Company in Seabeck, WA, a Kitsap County company town on the eastern shore of Hood Canal.

In 1856, a group of San Francisco investors--William J. Adams, Marshall Blinn, John R. Williamson, William B. Sinclair and Hill Harmon--pooled their money to create a lumber company that could provide wood to the rapidly growing cities of California. The Maine-born Blinn was an early example of a lumberman who transferred his operations from the increasingly logged-out New England region to the more plentiful, untapped resources of the Pacific Northwest. In 1856, Blinn sailed north to Puget Sound to scout out locations on which to establish a mill, complete with a shipload of modern machinery. The following year, they erected the Washington Mill Company Sawmill in Seabeck which began shipping sawn lumber to San Francisco and other Pacific Rim ports. (See University of Washington Libraries.edu, "Washington Mill Company Records Inventory Accession No. 1005-001," published 05/1986, accessed 01/08/2021.) Over time, Adams bought out the shares of the other partners, but this came to an end when sparks from a visiting cargoship, the barkentine Retriever, accidentally caused a blaze that enveloped the pier and later the Washington Mill Company facility on 08/12/1886. The fire ended the fortunes of the Washington Mill Company in Seabeck. (See Seabeck Conference Center.org, "The History of Seabeck," accessed 01/08/2021.)

Holyoke must have been an esteemed employee of the Washington Mill Company, as William Adams commissioned a tug boat named the "Richard Holyoke" to be built by shipbuilder Hiram Doncaster at Seabeck in 1877. (See Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, E.W. Wright, ed., [Portland, OR: Lewis and Dryden Printing Company, 1895], p. 185.) The 1880 US Census indicated that Holyoke, his wife and two children resided in Seabeck, where he served as a sawmill superintendent. (See Ancestry.com Source Citation Year: 1880; Census Place: Seabeck, Kitsap, Washington; Roll: 1397; Page: 308A; Enumeration District: 034, accessed 01/08/2021.) They continued to live here in 1883. (See Ancestry.com, Source Citation Washington State Archives; Cheney, Washington; Census Records; Census Year: 1883, accessed 01/08/2021.) Holyoke had left Seabeck before the fire, however, as he was listed as a Seattle resident in an 1885 Washington Territorial Census record. He worked as a farmer at the time. (See Ancestry.com, Source Information: Washington, U.S., State and Territorial Censuses, 1857-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: Washington. Washington Territorial Census Rolls, 1857-1892. Olympia, Washington: Washington State Archives. M1, 20 rolls, accessed 01/08/2021.)

By c. 1888, he had purchased the former property of the Puget Sound Iron Works, at Front and Spring Streets, as a site on which to build a combined retail/commercial office property. He commissioned architects Thomas G. Bird (c. 1844-1927) and George W. Dornbach (1863-1940) to design the ambitiously-scaled building.

An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer of 02/17/1889 described the new building: “Mr. A.B. Holyoke [sic] advertises this morning for bids for the excavation of his lot on the southeast corner of Front and Spring streets, preparatory to the erection thereon of a four-story brick with basement. Messrs. Bird & Dornbach are now drawing the detail plans of the brick [sic], which will have a basement of stone, surmounted by a superstructure of pressed brick with stone trimmings. The building will front 60 feet on the street and will be 120 feet deep. It contain two store-rooms, and the second story will probably be one large room for use for wholesale purposes. The upper stories will be devoted to offices. The building will be finely fitted with iron bracings inside and out, and will be heated by steam and lighted by electricity. The specifications will be complete within two weeks, and bids for construction will then be asked for. Work will begin probably in four weeks, and will be finished inside of four and a half months. The cost will likely reach $50,000.” (See “The Largest for the Year,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 02/17/1889, p. 5.)

Bird and Dornbach solicited bids from excavating contractors to prepare the foundations of the Holyoke Building in 02/1889. Their classified ad read: "Office of Bird & Dornbach, Architects—Bids will be received at this office up to noon of Monday, February 25, 1889, for the excavation of the lot on the southeast corner Front and Spring streets, for the five-story stone and brick block of Mr. A.B. Holyoke.” (See “Notice to Contractors,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 02/26/1889, p. 4.)

Bird and Dornbach began construction just before the Great Seattle Fire of 06/06/1889, and the Holyoke's excavated trench helped to curtail the northerly progress of the flames.They completed the Holyoke Block in 1890, one the first buildings finished in post-fire Pioneer Square. A six-story office block, the Holyoke was one of the tallest buildings in Seattle when erected. Its first floor was 16 feet high, its second, 13 feet. As was frequently the case, the building's architect (Thomas Bird) maintained offices in his new design; his office surroundings served as fine publicity and proof of his skills.

Holyoke later went into banking, becoming a Director in Robert R. Spencer's new National Bank of Commerce of Seattle when it opened on 05/15/1889. The Panic of 1893 depleted Holyoke's resources, forcing him to divest himself of his Seattle real estate holdings, including the Holyoke Building. Shortly therafter, Holyoke, a prominent businessman in town, retreated from the city, moving to a farm north in Skagit County and later to the town of Bellingham, capital of Whatcom County. He died on 03/11/1906 of cancer in Bellingham.

Subsequent owners included the colorful Slovenian immigrant Anton Farrell Stander (1867-1952), who had acquired a fortune in the Klondike. With his Gold Rush fortune, he began buying Seattle real estate, including the Stander Building and in 11/1900, the Holyoke Building. He lost much of his property ($350,000 worth) in a much-publicized divorce settlement with his wife, Violet Raymond Stander, in 01/1908. (See “Standers Adjust Property Rights,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/05/1907, p. 5.)

Despite losing the Hotel Stander in this divorce, Stander retained control of the Holyoke Block until 1917. An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said of the sale: "Papers were signed yesterday for the transfer of the Holyoke block, First avenue and Spring street, one of the oldest blocks in Seattle, for a consideration, it is understood, of considerably more than $100,000. The agreement calls for a cash transaction. The Stander Investment Company, the owner of the block for a number of years, is represented in the sale by West & Wheeler.... The Holyoke block was among the first erected in Seattle following the big fire in this city in June, 1889. It is a five-story brick structure with a frontage on First avenue of sixty feet and runs back on Spring street 111 feet. The ground floor is at present occupied by three stores, and the upper floors have long been used by Frederick & Nelson. The proposed sale is regarded as among the most important transfers of downtown realty in many months." The name of the purchaser was not disclosed. (See "Holyoke Block Brings Better than $100,000," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 02/03/1917, p. 16.)

Thomas Carstens purchased the Holyoke Block in 1922. (See "Property Now Used as Store Bring $115,000," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 09/24/1922, p. 14.)

Building Notes

By 05/1899, the 1st Church of Christ Scientist was holding its services in space in the Holyoke Block. Services continued in the building through 02/1900, at least. (See "Miscellaneous,"Seattle Daily Times, 05/21/1899, p. 13 and "Miscellaneous,"Seattle Daily Times, 02/03/1900, p. 4.)

By 1900 at least, the Holyoke Building had become the nexus for the musical and dramatic set of Seattle. A number of studios operated on the second and third floors, including that of Nellie Centennial Cornish (1876-1956), founder of the Cornish College of the Arts. Cornish wrote of this artistic context in her autobiography: "When I arrived in Seattle in 1900, the Holyoke Block was already established as a building where artists, especially musicians, worked and where many lived in their studios. Up one flight of stairs was a large court with solemn-looking doors lining three sides. Each of these doors opened into a two-room suites consisting of a small dark reception room, which led into a large room with high ceilings and four tall windows. Sliding doors separated the two rooms and when open. gave enough space to seat thirty or forty people. Studio recitals were frequently given there. Near the head of the stairs was a water tap and washbowl. The water tap proved to be the meeting place of the clan." (See Nellie Cornish, "Miss Aunt Nellie The Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish," [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1964), p. 62-63.) Louise Coman Beck (c. 1860-1928), a popular music instructor, was an early tenant of the Holyoke Block, and helped to draw others, including Cornish, to the location.

A great number of vocal studios presented performances in the Holyoke Block during the 1900s. Rose Hosley Ireland ran an active music studio there c. 1907. The Seattle Women's Club Music Department used Ireland's studio for meetings in that year. (See "Music Department Begins Season, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/15/1907, p. 7 and "Clubs and Societies," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 05/17/1907, p. 7.) The well-known, Buffalo, NY-based music critic and teacher, Carrie L. Dunning (d. 1929), appeared at the Sanderson Music Studio presenting a "...demonstration with apparatus, explaining the merits of the Dunning [music education] system" on 11/28/1905. (See "Mrs. Carrie L. Dunning, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/26/1905, p. 43.) Other music-related businesses occupied space in the Holyoke Block at this time. Roy's Violin Shop operated in Room #60 in 1908. (See classified ad, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 01/25/1908, p. 10.)

Other businesses located in the Holyoke Building during its earliest years included the Klondike outfitters the Northwest Fixture Company (makers of dynamos, electric lamps, glass and porcelain insulators, fireplace mantels and grates), operated here from 1894 to 1900, but moved to a new location by 1901 at 313 1st Avenue South.

In 1904, building owner Anton Stander used Room #34 in the Holyoke Building as his office. (See Polk's Seattle Directory Company's Seattle City Directory, 1904, p. 981.)

In 2012, the office building had an assessed value of $6,529,500. (See King County, Department of Assessments, Parcel Data for Parcel 0939000515, Accessed 11/29/2012.)


As it accommodated a changing array of retail businesses, first-floor storefronts have been remodeled consistently. Like most buildings in Pioneer Square, the original cornice masonry disappeared. On 04/13/1949, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake epicentered between Olympia and Tacoma, was felt in Seattle, causing many ornamental building elements to fall, particularly on unreinforced masonry buildings in Pioneer Square. Thereafter, many building owners removed cornices and other cantilevered elements to avoid injuries (and liability) in subsequent seismic events.

Seattle architectural firm Olson/Walker supervised a full-scale renovation of the Holyoke Building for building owner Harbor Properties in 1980. In 2012, the Holyoke Block offered 5,000 square feet of first-floor retail space and upper-floor offices ranging in size from 1,400-28,000 square feet. In total, the building contained 39,960 gross square feet, 34,910 net. (See Columbia West Properties, "Featured Properties: Holyoke Building," accessed 11/29/2012.) Harbor Properties owned the Holyoke Block until 05/19/2004, when it sold it to the DINA Corporation for $6.5 million.

National Register of Historic Places (Listed 1976-06-03): 76001888 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

Seattle Historic Landmark (Listed 1978-07-17): ID n/a

King County Assessor Number: 0939000515 Department of Assessments eReal Property GIS Center parcel report GIS Center parcel viewer GIS Center iMap viewer

PCAD id: 5426