Schwabacher's erects Seattle's first brick building on October 24, 1872.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 3/03/1998
  • Essay 1962
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On about October 24, 1872, Seattle's first brick building, constructed by Schwabacher Bros. & Company  is completed. It stands on the west side of Commercial Street (1st Avenue S) just south of Mill Street (Yesler Way). In it Schwabacher's opens a general store and wholesale house which purveys everything "from a needle to an anchor." The Seattle branch of Schwabacher Bros. & Company is managed by firm partner Bailey Gatzert (1829-1893), an important figure in Seattle commercial and social life.  
A Fine Appearance

The Puget Sound Dispatch wrote:

"[t]he magnificent new brick, iron front, store building for Schwabacher Bros. & Co. presents a fine appearance, fully equal to the best upon Front street, in Portland [Oregon]" (Dispatch September 5, 1872).

The brick Schwabacher building was the second building in Seattle not constructed entirely of wood. (The first was Dexter Horton's bank with its stone front built on the northwest corner of Commercial and Washington streets.) The new building used Chuckanut sandstone for the basement and brick for the two upper floors.

Seattle architect A. B. Rabbeson drew up the plans, and in March 1872, the firm Lord and Hall cleared the site. They moved three buildings: the Railroad House hotel, Western Terminus Hotel, and the Pioneer Bathing Saloon. The firm of Atkins and Cheney put in the foundation, using their pile driver to drive in some 400 piles. The foundation was completed by early June 1872.

The Mayor of Seattle, J. T. Jordan, headed the masons who laid the sandstone and brick. For the storefront, Jordan installed ironwork shipped from San Francisco, and French plate glass windows. Palmer and Bros. & Co. designed and constructed the cabinets and finished the interior. Arthur Doyle did the ornamental wood work. A wharf with warehouse attached was built adjoining the building one-half block west of Commercial Street at Elliott Bay.

Needles, Boots, Liquors, Anchors...

On October 24, 1872, the paper reported that the firm opened "with an immense stock of goods, including every thing in the line of trade, literally ‘from a needle to an anchor,’ embracing dry goods, groceries, and hard-ware, crockery, clothing, boots and shoes, liquors, tobaccoes [sic], ship supplies, farming and mining implements, iron, steel, nails, glass, and every other merchantable commodity that can be thought of" (Dispatch, October 24, 1872).

Schwabacher manager Bailey Gatzert was married to Babette Schwabacher, sister of the Schwabacher brothers Abraham, Louis, and Sigmund, merchants based in the Walla Walla valley. The Gatzerts were important figures in Seattle business and social life, and Bailey Gatzert, elected mayor in 1875, was Seattle's first and to date (1999) only Jewish mayor.


Puget Sound Dispatch March 21, 1872, p. 2, 3; Ibid., June 6, 1872, p. 3; Ibid., July 11, 1872, p. 3; Ibid., July 25, 1872, p. 3; Ibid., September 5, 1872, p. 3; Ibid., October 24, 1872, p. 1; Ibid., October 24, 1872, p. 1; The Weekly Intelligencer March 11, 1872, p. 3; Ibid., March 25, 1872, p. 3; Ibid., March 15, 1872, p. 3; Ibid., May 27, 1872 p. 3; Ibid., September 30, 1872, p. 3;, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Gatzert, Bailey," (by Lee Micklin), (accessed 1999).

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