Seattle Now & Then: The Gatzert Mansion at 3rd and James

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Most of the Gatzert home and its many towering gables are hidden here behind the corner’s bower of maples, which we learn from Seattle Times writer Peg Strachan were popular for romantic trysts. The twelve-story Alaska Building, Seattle’s first iron strengthened skyscrsaper (1904) rises above it.
NOW: The Lyon Hotel replaced Gatzert’s corner in 1911.

During the last year of World War Two, Margaret Pitcairn Strachan, a Seattle Times contributor, made a wise choice for a weekly serial subject.  She named it “Seattle’s Pioneer Mansions and some of the events they saw.” It was an illustrated weekly feature with copy inches about five times longer than this one.  The author interviewed many of the surviving pioneers – most often their children – and the families often held cherishes photographs, which they shared with Strachan.

One of my earliest mentors; Lawton Gowey, the Seattle organist, historian, and collector of Seattle historical ephemera, first introduced me to Strachan’s series letting me take his perfectly preserved collection home to my copy stand.  Thru my now 37 years of writing this feature for PacificNW Magazine, I have used many of the 52 features Strachan researched, wrote, and illustrated for The Times.  The series began on September 3, 1944.  The Times’ front-page headline that Sunday was encouraging. It reads “Germans In Disorderly Retreat as 2 Yank Forces Enter Belgium.”

Strachan’s last feature on mansions appeared on August 26, 1945.   By her study of the then surviving array of Seattle’s historic homes – and their stories – Margaret Pitcairn Strachan (“Peg”) has made a profound and lasting contribution to our understanding of Seattle History. Our readers would be correct to conclude that both Jean and I strongly urge them to seek-out the Strachan originals (all 52 of them) with the help of the Seattle Public Library’s copy of The Seattle Times Archives.  (If you have a library card, a Seattle Public Librarian can lead you in its use both on line and over the phone.  If you have no card now is a good time to get one.)

The small mansion nestled here in a copse of its own maples was built in the early 1870s at the northwest corner of James Street and Third Avenue by one of Seattle’s truly powerful pioneer couples: Bailey and Barbetta Gatzert. The couple’s plan to follow the move of Seattle’s more affluent citizens up First Hill to newer and larger mansions was abandoned. By the year this photograph was taken shortly before the Third Avenue regrade in 1906 Bailey had died in1893. Babetta then built a retreat on the east shore of Lake Washington and called it Lucerne after the Swiss lake that she and Bailey admired (In this Alpine line they also raised Seattle’s first Saint Bernard).  At the turn of the century the Gatzert home was converted into shops.  A row of them running north on Third Avenue from the corner with James Street is easily seen here.  (The print has a metropolitan French name “Bloc de Lyon,” lower-left corner, because the major investors in the Gatzert block were French citizens.)

The accomplishments, businesses and charities, of the Gatzerts were so extensive that we will list a share of them here over the next day or so.


Anything to add, fellas?

Potpourri of past N&T features

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: 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 Phoenix Hotel on Second Avenue, for the most part to the left of the darker power pole, and the Chin Gee Hee Building, behind it and facing Washington Street to the right, were both built quickly after Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. (Courtesy: Museum of History and Industry.)

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: 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: The northeast corner of Belltown’s intersection of Blanchard Street and Fourth Avenue was about 100 feet higher than it is now. The elegant late-Victorian clutters of the Burwell homes’ interiors are also featured on the noted blog. (Courtesy John Goff)

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)

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: 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: 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: 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

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)

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: A winter of 1918 inspection of some captured scales on Terrace Street. The view looks east from near 4th Avenue. (Courtesy City Municipal Archives)

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

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: This view looking east from First Avenue South on Jackson Street in 1904, is still four years short of the Jackson Street Regrade during which the distant horizon line near 9th Avenue was lowered by more than 70 feet. (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)


2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Gatzert Mansion at 3rd and James”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.