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Summary for 2121 1rst AVE / Parcel ID 1977200530 / Inv #

Historic Name: Colsky Building Common Name: 2121 1st Avenue
Style: Commercial Neighborhood: Downtown Urban Center
Built By: Year Built: 1926
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
This building was designed as a store building by architect and engineer James E. Blackwell for Mr. I. Colsky (called “Ike Colsky” on the Tax Assessor’s property record card). It was completed in 1926. A photo from 1936 shows that the south storefront was occupied by the original owner at that time, since painted signage with the name “I. Colsky,” occurred on each side of the storefront glazing. There was no signage associated with the other storefronts (at least in this photo). Based on this photo and original drawings by James E. Blackwell’s office, simple finials, set in line with the centerlines of each of the piers, also adorned the building cornice. The photo and drawings explain less about the original disposition of the storefront bases: early drawings suggest that they were divided into multiple panels and were perhaps of wood, but the 1936 photo also suggests a possible combination of rug brick and wood paneling. The storefront bases and parapet finials are really minor elements of the design, but the most interesting elements of the original design are all extant. On first glance, this is a simple building, with a one story façade and a reasonably simple function. Nevertheless, the facade composition and combination of elements make it stand out, even among several distinguished neighboring buildings. James Eustace Blackwell was a noted engineer and architect, who worked on many well-known Seattle buildings and engineering projects. Born in Fauquier County, Virginia on September 9, 1855, Blackwell was originally educated as an engineer at Bethel Military Academy. He began his career as a civil engineer, surveying the James River and the Kanawha Canal in Virginia. Following this, he worked in the office of the government supervising architect in Washington D.C. According to Clarence Bagley, he first became associated with the Pacific Northwest in 1890 and it appears that his early architectural practice was in Tacoma, where he worked with Robert L Robertson at least until 1893; however, Robertson and Blackwell are credited with the western addition (1904) to the Mutual Life Building (former Yesler Building) on First Avenue South in Pioneer Square. As part of the partnership of Blackwell and Baker, Blackwell was responsible for the design of the Grand Trunk Dock (1910-1911) in Seattle and of the Armory in Bellingham (completed 1912). Within the present Pioneer Square National Historic District/ Pioneer Square Preservation District, Blackwell and Baker also designed the two upper stories of the former Frink Building/ Washington Shoe Building, which were completed in 1912. This building is significant because of the quality and unique detailing of its façade, which is almost intact, except for minor changes to its storefronts. It is also the work of an important engineer and architect, who made many important contributions to Seattle’s built environment.
This building, which has a distinctive one-story façade on First Avenue, is sited mid-block between Blanchard and Lenora Streets. It also has a basement level, which is only visible on the west elevation facing an alley. The building footprint is 60 feet by 100 feet, not quite as deep as many buildings in the vicinity, which tend to be 111 feet deep. The building has a flat roof and parapet. The original structure includes solid brick exterior walls, which sit above the concrete walls of the basement, as well as a wood post and beam interior. The First Avenue façade, which in mainly clad in brown rug brick, is divided into three bays by brick piers. Each bay has a glazed storefront, which includes a glazed transom, set in the same plane as the façade. Each transom is divided into four large rectangular panes. In each of these larger glazed sections, there is a geometric pattern, created by the tracery, which includes a series of long, interlaced pointed arch-like forms. In turn, this design is reflected in the brick cladding above the storefronts. Here, in each of the bays, the cladding consists of a horizontal row of twelve pointed arch shapes, created in slight relief in red header bricks. The recessed area behind the arches is in brick that appears to be more orange-yellow in color. This ornamental parapet level is topped by a simple cornice. The area between the arches and the top of the storefront, including the transoms, is faced in various hues of brick, with the top three courses slightly corbelled in profile. Below the transoms, the storefronts themselves are typical of earlier storefronts and of the 1920s. The standard storefront usually features a symmetrical arrangement, with angled storefront set to each side of a central glazed door. The storefront glazing, set in wooden frame, sits on a wooden base in the case of the central bay and on a rug-brick clad base in the two other bays. Both designs look as though they have been part of the building for a long time. From the line of the top of the transom to the bottom of the storefront, the piers are also distinctively clad: the edge of each pier face is framed by a “box,” created in header bricks. Within this brick ornamental frame, there are roughly five rows of brick, set in a vertical arrangement, with an alternating joint pattern.

Detail for 2121 1rst AVE / Parcel ID 1977200530 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: INV
Cladding(s): Brick, Wood Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Business Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Mixed No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Commerce
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Storefront: Slight
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
Polk's Seattle Directories, 1890-1996.
Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects. Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
King County Tax Assessor Records, ca. 1932-1972.
Bagley, Clarence. “James Eustace Blackwell,” History of Seattle, From the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1913, p 633-634.

Photo collection for 2121 1rst AVE / Parcel ID 1977200530 / Inv #

Photo taken Jul 31, 2006
App v2.0.1.0