Seattle Now & Then: The Corgiat Building near Pioneer Square

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Built in 1900 the Corgiat Building lost its cornice and identifying sign to the 1949 earthquake. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: Built in 1900 the Corgiat Building lost its cornice and identifying sign to the 1949 earthquake. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: When it was sold in 1953, the building was still in the hands of the Corgiat family. The purchaser was its neighbor, the distinguished furniture dealers, the Masin family.
NOW: When it was sold in 1953, the building was still in the hands of the Corgiat family. The purchaser was its neighbor, the distinguished furniture dealers, the Masin family.

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It would be a mistake to tack to the Hotel Main the setback tower rising from its roof.   Rather, the Italianate tower is set next door atop Firehouse No. 10.  It was used to connote the firemen’s high calling to smoke out hot spots in the Pioneer Square neighborhood

Fire Station at the northwest corner of Third Ave. S. and Main Street briefly before the 1928-29 Second Avenue Extension razed it. The work on the left reveals the new corner cut for the same intersection's southwest corner. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)
Firehouse No. 10 at the northwest corner of Third Ave. S. and Main Street briefly before the 1928-29 Second Avenue Extension razed it. The work on the left reveals the new corner cut for the same intersection’s southwest corner. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)
Looking north on Third Ave. So. with a glimpse of the fire house on the left across Main Street at the northwest corner.
Looking north on Third Ave. So. ca. 1911 with a glimpse of the fire house on the left across Main Street at the northwest corner.

and also to dry hoses. The hotel was constructed in 1900 to the plans of Architect R. L. Robertson and the Firehouse with its tower was lifted above the northwest corner of Third Avenue and Main Street three years later.  The station was stopped at two stories – plus the tower – but a third floor was added in 1912 for the department’s new Fire Alarm Office.  A mere sixteen years later the public works 1928-29 Second Avenue Extension – a straightening between Yesler Way and Jackson Street – cut directly through No.10 and just missed the hotel.

A 1900 ad for Hambach Co.
A 1900 ad for Hambach Co.

In 1900 architect Robertson was fresh from completing the nearby Hambach Co.’s similarly sized business block (now the parking lot on First Ave. S., one lot south of Main Street) when early in the summer of 1900 he submitted plans for this three-story brick structure, but somehow with walls of “insufficient thickness.”  It was W.N.G. Place, a city building inspector with a fitting name, who spotted Robertson’s code cutting trim and arrested him.  Perhaps John Corgiat, the architect’s client, paid the fine as part of the $9,500 it took to complete his namesake building. Once expanded to code, the walls soon reached their decorative cornice where centered above the Main Street façade both Corgiat’s name and the date, 1900, could be easily read from the street.   

J. Corgiat's obituary in The Seattle Times.
J. Corgiat’s 1935 obituary in The Seattle Times. [Cllick to Enlarge for Reading] (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library, Seattle Room)

Corgiat arrived in Seattle from California before the Great Fire of 1889, to which he lost his restaurant, the Louvre, Seattle’s first Italian-French eatery.  The garrulous Corgiat founded Italian Lodge No. 1 of Seattle.  Not surprisingly, his 1935 obituary described him as having been “much in demand as a public speaker.”  The obit for the 78-year-old Italian immigrant also shared the irony that he had once sold forty acres near Green Lake to Seattle’s founders, the Dennys.  Sometimes the glad-handering Corgiat could turn bellicose.  After the Great Fire, he helped form a vigilante committee to help protect Seattle from the expected infusion onto its ruins of opportunist pickers and “bad egg bums.”  While paying and collecting his accounts then, Corgiat had the habit of walking the streets of the business district with a bag of cash in one hand and a revolver in the other. 

A Seattle Times reported example of
A Seattle Times reported example of Corgiat’s  sometimes disputive temper.

John Corgiat’s name held to the top of his business block until it was severally rattled by the earthquake of April 13, 1949.  The removal of the cornice was then ordered by one of Building Inspector Place’s many successors. Through its years as a hostelry, the tenants of the Main Hotel were largely fixed-income single-room occupants.  One of these, John E. Clark, was also a victim of the ’49 quake.  Clark, a napping tenant, was awakened when part of the Main Hotel’s roof fell on him.  It injured his head.  The tenants of the two sidewalk storefronts to either side of the hotel’s keyhole front door included the Millionair Club in the late 1920s, and John Danz, Seattle’s long-lived motion picture scion who started as a clothier and haberdasher, perhaps here on the left at “The One Price Store.”   In

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1909 the Saloon on the right, then like the hotel still named for the street it faced, was ticketed for selling spirits on Sunday.  Thirty-Four years later in 1944 the Main Hotel was accused of violating war-time rent regulations.  In ten years more the hotel was sold by the Corgiat family estate to its neighbor, the Masin Realty Company. 

The Main Hotel's manager caught and find for charging excessive rentals. A Times clipping from January 28, 1946.
The Main Hotel’s manager caught and fined for charging excessive rentals. A Times clipping from January 28, 1946.
A clip from The Seattle Times on Nov. 21, 1954.
A clip from The Seattle Times on Nov. 21, 1954.
From The Times for December 18, 1934.
From The Times for December 18, 1934.

We wonder, are the bricks stacked on the sidewalk, on the right, in front of The Loop Saloon, headed for Firehouse No. 10’s 1912 third-floor addition? A circa 1911 date is, we figure, ‘about right.’ 

WEB EXTRAS

To answer curious readers definitively, here is a blow up of the signage on the right side of the modern photo:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Happy New Year, lads! Let’s add a couple of photos from the Woodland Park Zoo, which I visited yesterday with my fifth/six graders from Hillside Student Community:

Hillside students fascinated by a playful otter
Hillside students fascinated by a playful otter
Otter at play
Otter at play
HSC kids suggest - you really otter visit
HSC kids suggest – you really otter visit
And if the otter isn't to your taste, try the Komodo dragon - at 8 feet long representative of the largest lizards on earth
And if you’d rather notter, check out the Komodo dragon – this one near 8 feet long and representative of the largest lizard species on earth

Anything to add, lads?  Nothing Jean so singularly impressive as your playful otter or our hulking Komado dragon, but with sheer numbers we may make an impression.   Ron Edge has put up a flock of relevant (from the neighborhood) features.  Open each and discover many more links within – some inevitably repeated.  We add bless Ron, redundancy, and our dogged decades of hunting and gathering. Damn, that is a fine dragon Jean!

When compared to most city scenes relatively little has changed in his view west on Main Street from First Avenue South in the century-plus between them. (Historical photo courtesy of Lawton Gowey)

Then: The Pacific House, behind the line-up of white-gloved soldiers, might have survived well into the 20th Century were it not destroyed during Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889. Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry

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THEN: Sitting on a small triangle at the odd northwest corner of Third Avenue and the Second Ave. S. Extension, the Fiesta Coffee Shop was photographed and captioned, along with all taxable structures in King County, by Works Progress Administration photographers during the lingering Great Depression of the late 1930s. (Courtesy, Washington State Archive’s Puget Sound Branch)

THEN: 1934 was one of the worst years of the Great Depression. This look north on Third Avenue South through Main Street and the Second Avenue South Extension was recorded on Thursday, April 19th of that year. Business was generally dire, but especially here in this neighborhood south of Yesler Way where there were many storefront vacancies. (Courtesy Ron Edge)

THEN: The Lebanon aka Jesse George building at Occidental and Main opened with the Occidental Hotel in 1891. Subsequently the hotel’s name was changed first to the Touraine and then to the Tourist. The tower could be seen easily from the railroad stations. It kept the name Tourist until replaced in 1960 with a parking lot. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Seen here in 1887 through the intersection of Second Avenue and Yesler Way, the Occidental Hotel was then easily the most distinguished in Seattle. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

THEN:In late 1855 the citizens of Seattle with help from the crew of the Navy sloop-of-war Decatur built a blockhouse on the knoll that was then still at the waterfront foot of Cherry Street. The sloop’s physician John Y. Taylor drew this earliest rendering of the log construction. (Courtesy, Yale University, Beinecke Library)

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THEN: In the older scene daring steel workers pose atop construction towers during the 1910 building of the Union Depot that faces Jackson Street.

THEN: The Freedman Building on Maynard Avenue was construction soon after the Jackson Street Regrade lowered the neighborhood and dropped Maynard Avenue about two stories to its present grade in Chinatown. (Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: At Warshal's Workingman's Store a railroad conductor, for instance, could buy his uniform, get a loan, and/or hock his watch. Neighbors in 1946 included the Apollo Cafe, the Double Header Beer Parlor, and the Circle Theatre, all on Second Avenue.

THEN: The Terry-Denny Building, better known in its earlier years as Hotel Northern, was part of the grand new Pioneer Place (or Square) neighborhood built up in the early 1890s after the old one was reduced to ashes by Seattle's Great Fire of 1889.

THEN: With the clue of the ornate Pergola on the right, we may readily figure that we are in Pioneer Square looking south across Yesler Way.

THEN: The original for this scene of a temporary upheaval on Mill Street (Yesler Way) was one of many historical prints given to the Museum of History and Industry many years ago by the Charles Thorndike estate. Thorndike was one of Seattle’s history buffs extraordinaire. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.)

THEN: Frank Shaw’s pre-preservation visit to First Avenue South on February 26, 1961. He looks north from Main Street. (photo by Frank Shaw)

THEN: For the first twenty years of his more than 40 years selling tinware and other selected hardware, Zilba Mile's shop looked south across Yesler Way down First Ave. S, then known as Commercial Street.

THEN: Local candy-maker A.W. Piper was celebrated here for his crème cakes and wedding cakes and also his cartoons. This sketch is of the 1882 lynching from the Maple trees beside Henry and Sara Yesler’s home on James Street. Piper’s bakery was nearby (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

tHEN: An unidentified brass band poses at the intersection of Commercial Street (First Ave S.) and Main Street during the 1883 celebration for the completion of the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad.

THEN: Looking northwest from the 4th Avenue trestle towards the Great Northern Depot during its early 20th Century construction. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: This “real photo postcard” was sold on stands throughout the city. It was what it claimed to be; that is, its gray tones were real. If you studied them with magnification the grays did not turn into little black dots of varying sizes. (Courtesy, David Chapman and otfrasch.com)

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First appeared in Pacific, June 1, 2008
First appeared in Pacific, June 1, 2008

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First appeared in Pacific, June 29, 1997
First appeared in Pacific, June 29, 1997
CLICK TO ENLARGE
CLICK TO ENLARGE

6 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Corgiat Building near Pioneer Square”

  1. Beautiful refurbished old building I recall when I lived in Seattle. So glad it wasn’t torn down. Wow,, Woodland park has come a long way since I last was there in 1981, my folks began taking me when Bobo was there in a cement box with bars, even as a small child it made me so sad to see him alone in that cold small area.

  2. “NOW: When it was sold in 1953, the building was still in the hands of the Corgiat family. The purchaser was its neighbor, the distinguished furniture dealers, the Masin family.”

    Are these old eyes bad or does the sign on the corner of the building really say “Rat Suck Fun” or something else? And pray tell, what kind of establishment would that be?

  3. The Corgiat Building, Now photo:
    Are my old eyes failing me or does the sign on the corner of the building in the now photo really say “Rat Suck Fun”? And what, pray tell, kind of establishment would that be?

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