Constructed 1913 for Frank Pyle and designed by Seattle architect Victor W. Voorhees, the Frank Pyle Building contributes to the historic and architectural character of the Ballard Avenue Landmark District. The Ballard Avenue Landmark District encompasses a particularly well preserved section of one of several successful small towns that flourished around the perimeter of Seattle in the late nineteenth century and would be subsequently incorporated into the metropolis. Ballard Avenue is lined with an intact collection of modest scale commercial buildings that reflect the development of the community’s main commercial street between 1890 and 1930. The character of this distinctive historic streetscape was primarily preserved because it was by-passed by Post-War era development that instead occurred along modern arterials - Market Street and 15th Avenue, to the north and east. In 1976, the Ballard Avenue Landmark District was formally designated a local historic district by the City of Seattle and was also listed in the National Register of Historic Places (Ballard Avenue Historic District).
This historic property is directly associated with the post annexation era of commercial and industrial development (1908-1930) when after the annexation of Ballard to Seattle, substantial construction continued to occur along Ballard Avenue and it remained the commercial center of the community. However, commercial development occurred at a slower pace and was more concentrated near NW Market Street. Three distinctive reinforced concrete buildings were built early in this period; the Hyde & Fitzgerald Building (aka Eagles Block, 1908), the O’Donnell Hotel Building (1909) and the Ballard Savings & Loan Building (1914). Gradually new construction and business activity became much more concentrated near Market Street.
During this era Ballard, and Seattle as a whole, became more auto-oriented and associated businesses, including a Ford showroom, were established on Ballard Avenue. The streetscape changed significantly after 1916 when prohibition was instituted and long-established local saloons were converted to tobacco, candy, ice cream and soft drink businesses. The 5-year long construction and the completion of the nearby Hiram Chittenden Locks and the Lake Washington Ship Canal in 1916 also spurred major changes within the local community and increased industrial and commercial fishing activity. Prior to the construction of the locks, barges and ships could only dock at Salmon Bay during high tide, whereas after the construction the waterway remained at a much more constant lake level, which was conducive for shipping and product distribution purposes. The creation of the ship canal also required the construction of a new Ballard Bridge (1918) and spurred associated road improvement and paving projects. With traffic revisions and roadway improvements, Market Street (formerly Broadway Street) began to be developed as the principal commercial thoroughfare. In 1927-28, the completion of the massive Ballard Building established Market Street as the modern commercial center in Ballard. However, numerous distinctive commercial buildings continued to be built along Ballard Avenue up until the onset of the Depression era.
City of Seattle DPD microfilm permit records include Permit #122582 that was issued to Frank Pyle (? Pyles) on 5-1-1913 to construct the subject building for $4200. The permit noted that Victor W. Voorhees* was the architect and the builder would be H. Rathe. Frank Pyle was an established Ballard saloon keeper. The building appears to have been designed to function as a store with a single storefront with large display windows and a separate side door; however, Frank Pyle did operate it as a saloon prior to prohibition. It is unclear what the purpose of the side door was. Maize B. Mitchell purchased the building 1-15-1927. By 1937, it functioned as a furniture sales shop (H.R. Furniture Exchange - painting, paper hanging and decorating services). The building was remodeled in 1940 and again functioned as a tavern by1968 when it appears to have been again altered.
*Victor W. Voorhees (1876-1970) began his long Seattle career in Ballard c.1904 and is credited with the design of hundreds of industrial, commercial and residential buildings over the following three decades. He may be best known for the his house plan book “Western Home Builder” that was initially published in 1907, as well as numerous extant commercial properties throughout the city. The nearby Markusen Building may be one of the earliest examples of Voorhees commercial work in Seattle. Voorhees appears to have had an office in the “Lombardini Block - #6” (Junction Block 5200 Ballard Avenue NW) as of the 1905 Ballard City Directory. An article appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on 8-14-1904 (pg.12, col.1) that noted Fisher, Voorhees and T.G. Bird “have taken up rooms together in the McDonald Block at 2nd and Ballard” - the McDonald Block appears to be a reference to McDonald’s Hall – which was located in the DeCurtin/Junction Block in 1904. Thomas G. Bird is credited with the design of the Junction Block, although it appears that Voorhees and Bird may have practiced together for a brief period; early in Voorhees’ career and late in Bird’s career. It is not known if Voorhees played any role in the design of the Junction Block (aka DeCurtin/Lombardini Block). However, Voorhees was responsible for the design of numerous buildings that were subsequently built along or near Ballard Avenue and clearly had ties to the business community there. Fisher & Voorhees also had a brief partnership and are believed to have designed another brick commercial business block on Ballard Avenue for George Jacobs at the same time as the Markusen Building; however, the subsequent address and status of this project are not known. (Seattle Post Intelligencer 10/4/1904, pg.14, col.2) It unclear if Fisher was in fact Elmer H. Fisher (ca.1843-1905) who was Seattle’s most prolific post-fire architect and responsible for the design of highly regarded Romanesque Revival commercial blocks in the old downtown commercial core and Belltown. In addition to the subject building and the Markusen Block, V.W. Voorhees is known to have designed the William Curtiss Co. Block (1911) at Leary and 22nd Avenue NW, the Eagle Block (1918-09 at 5412 Ballard Avenue NW), and the altered restaurant building (1913, at 5231 Ballard Avenue NW) as well as several early 20th C. Ballard residences that were included in his planbook or constructed from plans selected from the planbook.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Property Record Cards (1937-1972). Washington State Regional Archives, Puget Sound Regional Branch, Bellevue, WA.
“Ballard Avenue Historic District” National Register of Historic Places – Nomination Form (Prepared by Elisabeth Walton Potter, OAHP, April 1976.)
Baist’s Real Estate Atlas of Surveys of Seattle, Wash. Philadelphia: W.G. Baist, 1912.
Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1884-1951. Digital versions available via Seattle Public Library - www.spl.org.