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Summary for Prefontaine PL / Parcel ID 0939000555 / Inv #

Historic Name: Prefontaine Place Common Name: Prefontaine Place
Style: Beaux Arts - Neoclassical, Other Neighborhood: Pioneer Square
Built By: Year Built: 1926
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
Since 1926, Prefontaine Place has been maintained by the City of Seattle as a public square and fountain. The fountain was designed by Carl F. Gould, the renowned architect in the same year. Prefontaine Place was originally known as Yesler Triangle and had been deeded by Henry Yesler to the City as the site for a library. Yesler was one of Seattle’s earliest and founding settlers, an influential early Seattle entrepreneur, guiding force and owner of prime real estate in the area around Pioneer Place and north of Yesler Way. He owned the Puget Sound’s first steam mill and operated a grist mill as well as a general store. “Yesler Triangle” became Prefontaine Place, partly because of the bequest of Father Francis Xavier Prefontaine, who established Seattle’s first Catholic Church. Msgr. Prefontaine, who was born in Montreal in 1838, visited several mill towns in the Puget Sound before coming to Seattle, where he built Our Lady of Good Hope, at 3rd Avenue South and Washington Street in 1869. He also founded Providence Hospital at 5th and Madison. Our Lady of Good Hope was demolished in 1905, in order to accommodate the street, Prefontaine Place South. When Msgr. Prefontaine died in 1909, he left $ 5,000 “for a fountain in a public square,” but the gift was not really turned over to the City of Seattle until 1922. Meanwhile the library board had decided that “Yesler Triangle” was much too small for a library and by 1912, “control and jurisdiction” were granted to the City for the building of a “park.” By 1925, the Mayor of Seattle, Mayor Brown, the Park Board and the Yesler Estate all concurred that a commemorative fountain , dedicated to Msgr. Prefontaine, should be built there, while a “Pioneer” group contested the decision; however, the Mayor, Park Board and Yesler Estate eventually prevailed and Carl Gould was hired to design the fountain.
Prefontaine Place sits on a sloping triangular parcel of land, bounded by Jefferson Street, Yesler Way and 3rd Avenue South. Major buildings front it, including the Smith Tower, the Morrison Hotel to the northwest and the King County Courthouse to the northeast, as well as the Frye Hotel to the south. Prefontaine Place has a forty foot bowed terrace paved with brick and lined with a concrete railing and benches, set on its uphill side, parallel to 3rd Avenue. Pedestals at the outer corners of the terrace railing are surmounted by concrete braziers. Centered on this terrace is a circular pool with a monument at its center with the inscription: “Presented by Msgr. F. X. Prefontaine to the City of Seattle, Died March 4, 1909.” There are two sculpted tortoises on the fountain’s basin rim, which were originally supposed to issue jets of water. Slight changes, including the blue tile mosaic, appear to have been made to the fountain, as a result of a restoration of Prefontaine Place in 1967, achieved through the funding and efforts of Allied Arts and of the Municipal Art Commission, the predecessor of the City’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs.

Detail for Prefontaine PL / Parcel ID 0939000555 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Site District Status: NR, LR
Cladding(s): Ceramic tile, Concrete Foundation(s):
Roof Type(s): Roof Material(s):
Building Type: Landscape - Plaza Plan: Irregular
Structural System: No. of Stories:
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Arts, Politics/Government/Law, Religion
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
Potter, Elizabeth Walton. “Pioneer Square Historic District Expansion Amendment.” December 1976.
Sherwood, Don. “Prefontaine Place.” Sherwood History Files, Seattle Parks and Recreation . Database on-line. Available from
(re: Prefontaine Fountain) “Beautiful Music to Make City Beautiful,” in “Eighth Section – Women’s News,” The Seattle Sunday Times ,13 March 1960, n. p.

Photo collection for Prefontaine PL / Parcel ID 0939000555 / Inv #

Photo taken Nov 27, 2004

Photo taken Nov 27, 2004
App v2.0.1.0