Constructed in 1905 for Martin Markusen, the Markusen Building/Princess Hotel is among the oldest, most intact and architecturally significant historic buildings within 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 a crucial era in the commercial and industrial development of Ballard (1900-1907) when the commercial district along Ballard Avenue was fully established and a significant number of permanent buildings were constructed. By the early 1900s Ballard became known as the “Shingle Capital of the World” with approximately twenty lumber and shingle mills in full operation. In addition to the mill operations the industrialized shoreline included iron foundries, machine shops, paint manufactures, shipyards, pipe making plants and boiler works. Substantial commercial buildings were constructed along Ballard Avenue as the local population grew to over 10,000 residents (including 3,400+ school age children) by 1904. During this era Ballard Avenue functioned as a full service commercial street populated by numerous boarding houses, hotels and lodging houses, clothing merchants, banks, hardware dealers, druggists, dry good stores, laundry businesses, meat markets, restaurants, theaters and saloons. Gradually, the earliest wood-frame structures were replaced by more permanent – often architect designed – commercial buildings. Among the distinctive masonry and stone buildings that date from this era and most of which continue to characterize the streetscape are the G.B. Sanborn Block (1901, Portland Building (1901), Felt Block/Jones Building (1901, demolished), St. Charles Hotel (1902), Deep Sea Fisherman’s Building (1902), Scandinavian American Bank (1902), Matthes Block (1903), Kelsey Block (1903), Junction/Lombardini Block (1904), Kutzner Block (1904), Barthelemy Bros. Hardware Building (c.1904), Ernst Brothers Hardware Building (1904, demolished), A.L. Palmer Building (1905), Theisen Block (1905), Ballard Hardware Supply (1905), Peterson Hardware Co. (c.1905), Markussen Building (1905), and the Enquist Block (1906). In late 1906 Ballard residents approved annexation and the town became part of the City of Seattle on January 1, 1907. The boom era of major commercial construction began to lessen after the annexation.
[aka 5443-5445 Ballard Avenue] This building was constructed in 1905 for Martin Markusen and was initially known as the Markusen Building and later became commonly known as the Princess Hotel. It was designed by the architectural firm of Fisher & Voorhees (Victor W. Voorhees*) and constructed by Ole Olsen. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (10-9-1904, pg.14, col.3) identified the architects and reported that the construction contract would be $5200 for a one-story building; however 1905 Sanborn insurance map indicated that it was constructed with two-stories (and included bay windows). The original address was 349-351 Ballard Avenue. Mr. Markusen was identified in the 1904 Ballard city directory as a miner and is known to have owned the building until at least 1910 or later. The upper floor level initially housed the 18-room St. Paul Hotel (or rooming house) that became well known as the Princess Hotel. Early retail tenants included grocers (The People’s Store) and meat markets (J.C.. Fry). The building appears to have been owned by Harry Dow by 1928. A building permit (#279698) indicates that he had two bay windows (located at the center two windows of the second floor) removed that year. The marquee may have been added at that time. The July 1937 tax record photograph indicates that Hauff’s Department Store, Underhill’s Café and Bacon’s Shoe Store were located there; however, the department store was about to close down. After working for the Rhodes Bros. department stores in Tacoma and Seattle, Thorvald W. Hauff established his own department store on Ballard Avenue in 1912 (in the G.B. Sanborn Block), which operated there until 1928, at which time it was apparently relocated to this building. Storefront level was altered in the 1960s to house the Ballard Smoke Shop and Pete’s Tavern. In 1987 the building underwent a major rehabilitation project.
*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 house plan book “Western Home Builder” that was initially published in 1907, as well as numerous extant commercial properties. The 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 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.
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.)
Ballard Historical Society, Ballard Avenue Landmark District Plaque Project records.
Baist’s Real Estate Atlas of Surveys of Seattle, Wash. Philadelphia: W.G. Baist, 1905, 1912.
Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1884-1951. Digital versions available via Seattle Public Library - www.spl.org.