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Summary for 119 Yesler WAY / Parcel ID 5247800545 / Inv #

Historic Name: Korn Block/ Korn Building Common Name: Korn Building
Style: Queen Anne - Richardsonian Romanesque Neighborhood: Pioneer Square
Built By: Year Built: 1889
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
The Korn Building was designed by Elmer Fisher in 1889 for Moses Korn to replace an earlier building that had been destroyed during the great Fire of 1889. In fact, this is one of the first commissions that Fisher received after the Fire. The building was originally planned as a two-story building and was described as such in the June 18, 1889 issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; however in the August 1, 1889 issue, it became clear that it was to be a three-story building. The second article spoke very positively of the future building: “ A glance at the plans in Architect’s Fisher’s office show that the building will present a much handsomer appearance than the old structure. There will be more ornamentation, terra cotta, stone and galvanized iron being literally distributed over the front elevations.” This new version of the Korn building had a plan that was similar to the older Korn Building, but its elevations were more paired down than most of the buildings designed by Fisher or other architects before the Fire. The tendency to grid the elevations shows vestiges of the Victorian tendency in Fisher’s work; but the relatively paired down ornamentation and the repetitive arches suggest an awareness of the increasingly popular American version of Romanesque Revival popularized in the work of H.H. Richardson and others. The new building Ordinance No.1147 also encouraged less ornamentation: It mainly required stone and brick and non-combustible exterior materials, which did not lend themselves to the fussier wood ornamentation of some of the pre-fire wood buildings; for instance, most post-fire buildings would not have the wooden spandrels between the second and third floors that the Korn Building has. While the Korn Building is simpler and now makes a very different impression, it resembles a less solid version of the New England Hotel, also designed by Fisher in 1889-1890, in the gridlike divisions of the elevation, the repeated use of arches, the treatment of the corner elevation and the raised parapet which used to rise above it. The New England Hotel also stands on a corner- the northwest corner of Main and First Avenue South. Moses Korn, who ran Korn Druggists, was an important entrepreneur before and after the Fire of 1889. He was also caught up in the controversy over the widening and raising of the streets shortly after the Fire of 1889. Korn, however, was less vocal than Henry Yesler (who protested vehemently that these civil works would destroy the value of his nearby property and make it impossible to build the Pioneer Building. The Pioneer Building is located very close to the Korn Building and was also designed by Fisher). Elmer Fisher’s life remains something of a mystery, since the recent discovery that it is unlikely that he was really from Scotland, as he stated and none of the accomplishments he claimed, outside of his work in British Columbia, can be corroborated; however, after the Fire of 1889, he was the most prolific architect in Seattle. He is credited with almost half of the major buildings in downtown Seattle between 1889 and 1891.
The Korn Building at 101 Occidental Avenue South is a three story brick clad building whose parapet on the north elevation is partially missing. Other materials are stone trim and wood, particularly in the spandrels between the second and third floors. The building is almost rectangular in plan, although it has a short angled façade between Occidental Avenue South and Yesler Way. The two other main street elevations occur to the north on Yesler Way and to the east on Occidental Avenue South. The Yesler Way façade is divided into four bays with the two central bays which are wider than the side bays. The ground level has trabeated storefront openings of varying heights. The storefronts are not original. More distinctive are the second and third floor portions of this north elevation. At the second level the fenestration of the side bays consists of a series of two elongated rectangular, double-hung windows. These flank the two central bays which each consist of similar windows set in groups of three. Each bay is continued at the third level by arched window openings, with a stone molding outlining the arch of each opening. The spandrels between the second and third floor windows are of wood with panels inset with square and rectangular shapes. An angled elevation between Yesler Way and Occidental Avenue S. is one bay, with a stuccoed ground floor and rectilinear openings (later insertion) and a similar vertical bay with a rectilinear opening at the second level and an arched opening at the third level. The Occidental Avenue South Elevation also has rectangular storefront openings at the ground level. The second and third levels have two wider central bays with the distinctive wood window frames and are divided into three generous window openings at each level. These are flanked by the thinner bay configuration, also seen on the Yesler Way elevation, although the top window of the north bay is rectangular. The openings of the first level of the building have clearly been subjected to much more recent alterations. At this point, it is not clear if galvanized iron, mentioned in an 1889 article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, was used in the design in the end, but judging from a contemporary drawing, it seems likely that the iron may have been used in the original storefronts at the ground level. The upper floors are reasonably intact, except for the loss of the cornice, possibly of brick and concrete, which continued the grid of the bays below and had a raised portion over the smaller angled façade between Occidental Avenue S. and Yesler Way.

Detail for 119 Yesler WAY / Parcel ID 5247800545 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: NR, LR
Cladding(s): Brick, Stone, Wood Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Warehouse Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Masonry - Unreinforced No. of Stories: three
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Community Planning/Development
Changes to Plan: Intact
Storefront: Extensive
Changes to Windows: Slight
Changes to Original Cladding: Moderate
Major Bibliographic References
Ochsner, Jeffrey and Dennis Andersen. Distant Corner: Seattle Architects and The Legacy of H. H. Richardson. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2004.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1 August 1889.
King County Tax Assessor Records, ca. 1932-1972.

Photo collection for 119 Yesler WAY / Parcel ID 5247800545 / Inv #

Photo taken Jul 14, 2004
App v2.0.1.0