home Pacific NW Magazine home

Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then

Now & Then
The Romanesque Empire
The New York Building at the northeast corner of Second Avenue and Cherry Street is one of our best examples of how changes in taste and opportunity could occur so quickly in Seattle during its boom years. Built soon after the city's "Great Fire" of 1889, and although clearly an elegant arrangement of brick and stone, the New York Building was replaced in 1922 with the Dexter Horton Building. That much larger and gleaming terra-cotta structure survives.
PROBABLY ANYONE with an interest in local landmarks knows by now that most of the new brick and stone buildings erected in the massive urban renewal after the "Great Seattle Fire" of 1889 were influenced by Boston architect H.H. Richardson. Richardson is so consistently identified with a style that we think of it as "Richardson Romanesque."

Seattle architects drew on the example of Richardson's interpretations of the Romanesque with features like the great multi-story arcades of large windows, such as those seen here in the New York Building at the northeast corner of Cherry Street and Second Avenue. Richardsonian designs were more fire-resistant than the ornate Victorian structures razed by the fire. And here is an irony: Seattle architect William Boone, who designed the New York Building within a half year of the fire, also designed most of the Victorian buildings destroyed by it.

These insights and many more are made in "Distant Corner: Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H.H. Richardson" (University of Washington Press), architectural historians Jeffrey Karl Ochsner and Dennis Andersen's long-awaited exploration of Richardson's influence hereabouts.

As Ochsner and Andersen point out, the two brick structures left and right of the sophisticated "Romanesque" New York Building are also connected to Boone. The Boston Block, on the left, was built before the fire, and while its windows were knocked out by the heat radiating across Second Avenue, it survived. Boone was its local superintending architect. The Occidental Block on the right at the northwest corner of Third and Cherry was Boone's first large post-fire commission.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then home
Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company