Home Page
Link to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods home page

Seattle Historical Sites

New Search

Summary for 61 Columbia ST / Parcel ID 7666202565 / Inv #

Historic Name: Polson Building Common Name: Polson Building
Style: Commercial - Chicago School Neighborhood: Pioneer Square
Built By: Year Built: 1910
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
The Polson Building is named after its original owner, the Polson Realty Company. It was built in 1910 and designed by architects Saunders and Lawton. The building is significant because it dates from the period of economic and industrial growth as well as the expansion of the original heart of Seattle along the former tideflats. Its construction is in reinforced concrete, indicating a shift in construction knowledge and techniques, since many warehouse buildings from just a few years before had brick exterior walls and heavy timber interiors. While a simple utilitarian building, it has much in common with other more ornate warehouse buildings erected in the same period. It is also by a Seattle architecture firm of note. The Saunders and Lawton partnership was formed in 1898, when Charles Saunders joined up with his former draftsman, George Lawton. Saunders and Lawton were responsible for other warehouse buildings in the district, including the Westland Building of 1907, the Norton Building of 1904, the Mottman Building of 1906 and the F. X. McRory Building (formerly the McKesson and Roberts Building) of 1906. Charles Saunders’ career in Seattle, however, goes back to 1889. He came to Seattle in 1889 right after the Great Fire, probably because of an association with William Elder Bailey. Bailey was involved in ventures in real estate, railroads and newspapers in Seattle right after the Fire of 1889 until the early 1890s, when his finances went sour. By September of 1889, Charles Saunders had formed a partnership with Edwin Houghton, whom he may have met in California. The Saunders and Houghton Partnership produced several notable buildings in the new heart of Seattle right after the Fire of 1889, including the Bailey Building, the Terry Denny Building and the now demolished Olympic Block. Although it is known that Saunders grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, little is known about his initial training as an architect. After the dissolution of the Saunders and Houghton partnership in 1890, Saunders practiced independently until the formation of the Saunders and Lawton partnership in 1898, which lasted until 1915. Saunders and Lawton were also responsible for the Forestry Building, made of raw logs, at the Alaska-Yukon Exposition in Seattle in 1908-09 and were supervising architects on the construction of Eames and Young’s Alaska Building, also in the Pioneer Square Historic District. The Polson Building was partially burnt in 1958 and is described as having been “rebuilt” in 1958. It also suffered a severe fire in the late 1990s, which destroyed the art work of many artists who had studios in the building at the time. It was again rehabilitated, but based on historical photographs and despite two major fires, the basic design and exterior have been changed little since 1910.
This is a six story building with reinforced concrete walls. It has a full basement and concrete foundation. It has primary facades on Western Avenue and Columbia Street. The Western Avenue façade is divided into six bays with trabeated openings at the ground level. Within these openings, the storefronts are set in wooden frames and have transom lights. Above a belt-course in concrete, there are four standard central vertical bays set between piers. Each of these bays has a horizontal row of four double-hung windows in a wood frame (per floor). To each side of the four central bays are end bays with a horizontal row of three windows per floor. The Columbia Street elevation has a similar design and detailing, except that there are six central bays with horizontal rows of three double-hung windows. Side bays here consist of horizontal rows of two windows. There is now an entrance at the fourth bay from the east (or from the corner of Western Avenue and Columbia Street), which is a later addition.

Detail for 61 Columbia ST / Parcel ID 7666202565 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: NR, LR
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Warehouse Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: six
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Communications, Manufacturing/Industry, Science & Engineering, Transportation
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Interior: Moderate
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Slight
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.

Photo collection for 61 Columbia ST / Parcel ID 7666202565 / Inv #

Photo taken Jun 27, 2004
App v2.0.1.0