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Summary for 415 BOREN AVE / Parcel ID 1983200270 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: C. B. Van Vorst Building Common Name: C. B. Van Vorst Company
Style: Commercial, Spanish - Mission Neighborhood: South Lake Union
Built By: Year Built: 1915
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).

This historic property has been formally designated a City of <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Seattle landmark per the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (SMC 25.12). Refer to the webpage listed below for a list of City of <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Seattle landmarks and additional information regarding this specific property:

This building, a City of Seattle landmark since 2000, was built from 1909 to 1915 and is now commonly known as the C. B. Van Vorst Building. It was originally owned by the J. M. Colman Company, founded by James Murray Colman, who died in 1906. Property tax records indicate that J. M. Colman was listed as the fee owner from June 29, 1915 to at least 1936. The building to the north, sometimes known as the Connelly Building, and completed in 1930, was built as a warehouse building for J. M. Colman and Company and appears to have been in the ownership of the company until roughly the same time, 1938 or 1939. The building is also associated with Frederick and Nelson, until recently one of Seattle’s premier department stores. Frederick and Nelson were the earliest recorded tenant. According to Polk’s Directory, the building was listed as the department store’s furniture outlet from 1915 to 1923. Other tenants included the Lambert Transfer and Storage Company, Inc. between 1923 and 1929 and the West Coast Furniture Manufacturing Company between 1937 and 1940. The tenant who has given the building its name is the C. B. Van Vorst Company, who manufactured mattresses in the building from 1941 to 1974. They were followed by the Englander Corporation, which occupied the building between 1975 and 1983. Despite the naming of the building after the Van Vorst Company and the early tenancy of the Frederick and Nelson furniture outlet, the ties with the J. M. Colman Company are nevertheless important. Since James Murray Colman died in 1906, the building, like its neighbor to the north, must have been commissioned by the Company, headed by Colman’s sons, George and Laurence. The Colman brothers, well-known as business leaders in Seattle, were both involved in real estate as individual investors and as the heirs to their father’s company. James Murray Colman, born in Scotland, had immigrated to California and then to Washington State, where he became the owner and manager of sawmills in Port Madison on Bainbridge Island and in Port Orchard. In 1872, he moved to Seattle, where he operated Henry Yesler’s sawmill for Preston, McKinnon and Company of San Francisco, who had leased it from Yesler for three years. At that time, Colman, who was trained both as an engineer and a machinist, was considered, according to historian Clarence Bagley, “one of the best mill men on the coast.” James Colman also survived severe reverses. A fire destroyed his Port Orchard sawmill in 1869 and the Great Fire of 1889 destroyed his Seattle properties in what is now the Pioneer Square Historic District. Despite these reverses, James M. Colman was a well-known and influential Seattle businessman. During the mid to late 1870s, he provided leadership, as well as major financial backing for the proposed Seattle & Walla Railroad. While the railroad never reached Walla Walla and only extended to South King County, it was very profitable as a shorter line that moved coal from the South King County mines to Seattle’s waterfront. It was an important factor in establishing Seattle as the Puget Sound’s economic center. Colman was also the owner of a coal mine in Newcastle. Also, as a result of his support of the railroad, Colman became an associate of railroad magnate, Henry Villard. He is best known for commissioning several terminal buildings, (all somehow destroyed), and ferry docks at the site of the present Colman Dock and for commissioning the Colman Building, just outside of the Pioneer Square Historic District. Laurence and George Colman, whose company commissioned this building, continued his legacy. George was active in the founding of Laurelhurst, while Laurence Colman is described as “owning a mile of storefronts” in Seattle and made many civic contributions to West Seattle. The salt water Colman Pool in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park was completed in 1941 and named in Laurence Colman’s honor He was also the second largest stockholder in Joshua Green’s People’s National Bank, now U. S. Bank. In downtown Seattle, Laurence Colman was a co-founder of the YMCA, which the Colman family continued to support. Along with the later Connelly Building, this idiosyncratic building has retained the most striking elements of its original architectural design and, in addition, is associated with the legacy of James M. Colman and his sons, which is not reflected in the building’s current name. (Please see the Seattle Landmark Nomination for this building for more in-depth information)
The Van Vorst Building is located mid-block on the west side of Boren Avenue North, between Republican and Harrison Streets. To the north is 1015 Republican Street, often known as the Connelly Building. Exterior walls are of unreinforced brick masonry, while the interior structure consists of heavy timber and wood frame construction. The basement and foundation are of poured in-place concrete. The building footprint is approximately 120 feet by 122 feet. The building, which has a full basement, also consists, above ground, of two floors, in addition to a partial third floor with a monitor roof. The main, west facade has a raised brick parapet at its center and cast concrete coping. The raised central parapet has a distinctive shape, reminiscent of Mediterranean Revival or Neo-Baroque architecture, as well as the false fronts of Western American vernacular frame buildings At its outer corners, the central parapet consists of vertical projections which flank a low angled, central gable shape. Large curved shapes to each side of the projecting vertical elements create the transition to the lower and horizontal parapet wall. At the corners of this lower parapet, are simple, raised vertical elements, which, in turn, are repeated at the adjacent corners of the north and south elevations. The cladding of the façade consists of 9” by 2.5” face brick, laid with half inch mortar joints in a Flemish bond pattern. The bricks were originally fired red bricks, but have since been painted light yellow, with a few patches of blue, where attempts were made to eliminate graffiti. A band of soldier bricks, set below the coping, follows the shape of the parapet. The top of arched openings is also emphasized by radiating bricks. The proportion of window opening to wall expanse is restrained. At the top two levels of the façade, the arrangement of window openings retains a symmetrical pattern, while changes at the street level have altered the original symmetrical design. Window openings at the top two levels typically have low arched heads and brick sills, in which rectangular double-hung windows are set, with wood infilling the space above the top sash. There are two sizes of the typical window on the upper stories of the façade, but the glazing usually consists of multi-lite patterns of 4 over 4. The top level features a low, arched, blind recessed opening, which has a molding surround in cast concrete and once contained signage. To each side of this, are two smaller, arched window openings. At the second level, there are two sets of three windows of the smaller variety, flanked by trios of windows of the larger size. This grouping is flanked, to each side, by a similar larger window, but set at a greater distance from the neighboring window than the intervals between the groups of windows. Two adjacent, steel frame, flat corrugated sheet metal marquees are attached above the first level of the facade and over the front loading docks and sidewalk. The marquees are also set above the first level of low-arched window heads and doorways in a manner that suggest that the marquees do not date from the initial design and construction of the building. Cast-iron corner guards also shield the bottom jambs of primary vehicle doorways. Three vehicle doorways occur on the façade, near the alley and have roll-up doors. The back, east, alley elevation is mainly clad in unpainted reddish brick, set in a common bond pattern. Windows are more consistent in size and feature the standard design of single, double-hung sash window, set into low arched openings, at the basement, first and second floors. The top level, however, has rectangular openings. The south elevation is clad in the same reddish brick, set in a common bond pattern as the east elevation. Vestiges of a painted sign that once read “FREDERICK AND NELSON FURNITURE WAREHOUSE” are still partially legible. In general, throughout the building, some windows have been infilled. (Please see the Seattle Landmark Nomination for this building, listed in the bibliography below, for more in-depth information)

Detail for 415 BOREN AVE / Parcel ID 1983200270 / Inv # 0

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: LR, INV
Cladding(s): Brick, Concrete, Metal Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Warehouse Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Brick No. of Stories: two & ½
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Manufacturing/Industry
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Slight
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
Drawings, Microfiche Files, Department of Planning and Development.
BOLA Architecture + Planning. “The C. B. Van Vorst Building,” Seattle Landmark Nomination, September 2000.
Bagley, Clarence B. History of Seattle, Washington. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1916.
Lange, Greg. “Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad runs first train on March 7, 1877,” HistoryLink, (File number 755), 24 January 1999. Database on-line. Available from
Warren, James R. “James Murray Colman (1832-1906),” HistoryLink, (File number 1680), 20 September 1999. Database on-line. Available from

Photo collection for 415 BOREN AVE / Parcel ID 1983200270 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Feb 24, 2005
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