The Pioneer Building

{Pioneer Square}

The Pioneer Building was commissioned by Henry Yesler. Construction began before the 1889 fire, but it was not completed until after Yesler's death in 1892. It is a grand Victorian building with clustered columns, red terra cotta and stacked sandstone pilasters. The ornate iron-and-glass pergola was built in 1909 in time for Seattle's first world's fair, the Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.

It was originally a streetcar shelter, beneath which was a public restroom featuring marble stalls, terrazzo floors and tile walls. The "comfort station" was closed long ago. In February of 2001 a delivery truck clipped the edge of the pergola, bringing it down in a pile of broken glass and iron.

Fortunately, the firm that built the original structure is still in operation and was able to restore the pergola using the same material with reinforced steel on the interior. Pioneer Place, the Pioneer Building and the pergola have been named a National Historic Landmark, the highest level of national historical significance.

To learn more about this building, visit the City of Seattle's historical sites page.

Listen to a podcast from the Pioneer Square Walking Tour.

First Avenue and Yesler Way (3mb mp3)

Find this building on our walking tour map. (680kb pdf)

Pioneer Building, 1910
Pioneer Building, photo by Joe Mabel

About us

This site is dedicated to the history of Seattle's downtown and waterfront, especially the State Route 99 / Alaskan Way Viaduct corridor. It was developed by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration as an educational resource and as part of a Memorandum of Agreement for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (pdf 1mb).

Copyright 2011 Washington State Department of Transportation