Thomas Freeman opens Pioneer Variety Store in Seattle in 1876.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • Essay 2759
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In 1876, Thomas P. Freeman opens the Pioneer Variety Store at the corner of Yesler Way and 2nd Avenue in Seattle. He sells crockery, glassware, hardware, and new and used goods. Freeman, a shoemaker by trade, is among Seattle's African American pioneers, having arrived in Seattle with his family in 1872.

He leased the building from Henry Yesler, sublet the second floor, and built an inside stairway and a balcony. In 1879, he expanded the business and opened a commission and storage house. In 1880, he moved his business to his residence on 3rd Avenue. Then he returned to boot and shoe repair, to which he added selling secondhand goods and fitting keys to locks.

He moved to Portland in 1885, returned to Seattle in 1890 and opened a shoe shop at 2nd Avenue and Madison Street.


Esther Hall Mumford, Seattle's Black Victorians, 1852-1901 (Seattle: Ananse Press, 1980), 70-71.

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