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Summary for 109 Yesler WAY / Parcel ID 5247800550 / Inv #

Historic Name: Merchant's Café/ Sanderson Block Common Name: Merchant's Café/ Hotel
Style: Commercial, Queen Anne - Richardsonian Romanesque Neighborhood: Pioneer Square
Built By: Year Built: 1890
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
In terms of style, The Merchant’s Café Building exterior is a very pared down version of the Victorian style with elements of Richardsonian Romanesque/ early Chicago School. It was built in 1889-1890 right after the Fire of 1889. Known as the Sanderson Block, when it was built, it was designed by W. E. Boone. Its restaurant, the Merchant’s Café, considered the oldest standing restaurant in Seattle, has been in continuous use since its founding in 1890. The top floors were originally designed as offices, but were subsequently used as a hotel, called in the 1920s and 1930s, at least, the Merchant’s Hotel. The architect of the Merchant’s Café Building, W.E. Boone was born in Pennsylvania in 1830, and described in his 1921 obituary in the Post-Intelligencer, as a direct descendant of Daniel Boone. His architectural career in Seattle is interesting, because he had a known practice before Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889 and was a partner in several successful offices well after the fire, a rarity among the architects who contributed to the rebuilding of Seattle in 1889. He began his career in railroad construction in Chicago, then pursued building construction in Minneapolis and the Bay Area. There he began to enjoy some prominence as the designer of the “Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind,” in Berkeley and a Masonic Temple and a City Hall in Oakland, California. He arrived in Seattle around 1882, where he remained until his death. He was responsible for many buildings in what is now the Pioneer Square-Skid Road National Historic District, including the pre-fire Yesler-Leary Building, which stood at the intersection of Yesler Avenue and First Avenue, the Globe Building (the former Marshall Walker Block) and the Seattle Quilt Building (former Walker Building) at 316-318 First Avenue S., between Main and Jackson Streets. In partnership with William H. Willcox, he completed the now demolished but spectacular New York Building , (1889-1892), at the northeast corner of Second Avenue and Cherry Street and designed the original four floors of the J.M. Frink Building (or Washington Iron Works Building), now known as the Washington Shoe Building (1891-1892), at the southeast corner of Occidental Avenue South and Jackson Street. In 1893, in A History of Washington, the Evergreen State, From Early Dawn to Daylight, Julian Hawthorn wrote of Boone: “This well-known citizen, though not among those who came to Seattle at the earliest day of the city’s history to lay here the foundations of municipal and commercial greatness, is a prominent and representative man of the re-enforcement [sic] that came when the place was beginning her larger growth; and to this re-enforcement much of the credit of the city’s remarkable advancement is due.”
The Merchant’s Café Building, known as the “Sanderson Block,” in its day, is a three story building with a basement level. The building’s exterior walls are of unreinforced brick masonry. It is rectangular in plan, approximately 29’-6” by 60’. On the street level, the building has a recessed glazed storefront, with above it a marquee that runs the length of the building façade. Above the marquee is a glazed clerestory of multi-colored leaded glass. This glazing boasts an advertisement: “Havana Cigars LOVERA five cents.” Based on photographs from 1929 and 1936, this sign was already part of the building at least by the late 1920s. A photograph from 1911 shows advertisement in the glazing for Olympia Beer. On the second and third floors, the façade is divided into four bays, further emphasized by engaged brick pilasters and decorative corbelled brickwork above the windows. The façade is also divided by horizontal bands in cast-stone, which emphasize the various levels of the building. Between the second and third floors, two decorative cast stone bands delineate the spandrels, which are decorated by cast- stone rectangles emphasizing the window bays. Above the third level, an additional horizontal corbelled band marks the transition toward another horizontal expanse of wall, also punctuated by smaller cast-stone rectangles. Based on photographs from the 1930s, a classically inspired cast-stone cornice sat above this wall, over which was a decorative brick parapet wall. The original decorative parapet wall has been replaced by concrete wall and much of the original cornice is gone, a casualty of the 1949 earthquake. This ground floor interior, the Merchant’s Café, is also noteworthy for its elegantly carved thirty foot “bar,” which includes short columns with Ionic Composite capitals. The “bar” was brought around Cape Horn (much like the “bar” at “Doc Maynard’s” , currently the restaurant on the ground floor of the Howard Building), on a schooner in the late 1800s. The room’s metal pressed ceiling is also of note. Its decorative elements include repeated squares, which give the impression of a caisson ceiling and a wide and striking variety of intricate garland shapes, floral motifs and geometric patterns, in addition to an ornamental cove ceiling. In general, the visual appearance of the storefront façade remains true to the historical building design, as does the entire façade. A few changes at the ground level, however, have been made: Some of the storefront glazing has been replaced. There appears to have been clerestory glazing, but its advertisement has changed since 1911. In 1971, the façade brick was sandblasted and in 1972, restoration architect Richard Lawson was granted permission to replicate the marquee, which had deteriorated badly. The new marquee appears to be true to the historical marquee. In 1973, the Pioneer Square Historic District Preservation Board granted permission to “replace the small windows at the serve out counter,” located at the western side of the façade with oak panels and new glazing. (This portion of the building was slightly damaged during the dramatic 1972 collapse of the neighboring Olympic Building). In 1986, further changes to the area, now called the “cigar stand area,” were also approved by the Board. In 1996, slight, but approved changes were made again to this area, when it was turned into an espresso stand. Recent renovation work by Kovalenko Hale Architects around 2002 /2003 has been sensitive to the building exterior and no obvious changes have been made.

Detail for 109 Yesler WAY / Parcel ID 5247800550 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: NR, LR
Cladding(s): Brick, Stone, Stone - Cast Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition, Unknown
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Restaurant Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Masonry - Unreinforced No. of Stories: three
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Social Movements & Organizations
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Windows: Slight
Storefront: Moderate
Changes to Interior: Slight
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
Bagley, Clarence. History of Seattle from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1916.
Kovalenko Hale Architects (Link, Karin), “Merchant’s Café Building, 109 Yesler Way, Historic Preservation Certification Application, Parts I and II,” 1999.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5 July 1889, 8, col.1; 10 July 1889, 4, col. 6; “Yesler Avenue Activity.” 31 July 1889.
Hawthorne, Julian, editor. History of Washington, the Evergreen State, From Early Days to Daylight. New York: American Historical Publishing Company, 1893.
A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of the City of Seattle of the County of King, Including Biographies of Those Who Passed Away. New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.

Photo collection for 109 Yesler WAY / Parcel ID 5247800550 / Inv #

Photo taken Jun 28, 2004
App v2.0.1.0