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Seattle's City Halls

Seattle’s First City Hall

From 1869, when the City of Seattle was incorporated, to 1882, municipal government conducted business in different buildings, in rented space, throughout the City.

On June 16, 1882, the Common Council provided $8,000 for "the erection of a building to be used as a Council Chamber, Fire Engine House, and City Jail." (Ordinance 285)

first city hall
First city hall

Architect W. E. Boone was selected to design the multi-purpose building. The construction contract was awarded to E. W. Rea, whose bid was $7,525. The structure was to be completed on or before the first Friday in November, 1882.

The building, located at what is now Second Avenue South between Yesler Way and Washington Street, was a modest brick and wood two-story building, measuring 40 x 60 feet. City Hall occupied the second floor of the Engine House.

The Council was apparently eager to move into its new space. At the December 8, 1882 Council meeting held in the new building, frequently called the Engine House, Councilman John Collins, Chairman of the Committee on Public Buildings, Property and Grounds, entered his protest "against the meeting of the Council in the new City Engine House before the same is delivered by the contractor and accepted by the City." Councilman O.F. Cosper responded that "the occupation of the new City Engine House was done after verbal permission [was] first obtained from the contractor."

The Great Fire
firemen outside first city hall
Firemen outside first city hall

Despite being housed above the Fire Engine Co. No. 1, City Hall was destroyed in the disastrous Great Fire of June 6, 1889, along with all the City’s tax information for 1885, 1886, and 1887. In the wake of the fire, City offices were moved temporarily to a converted house between Fourth and Fifth Avenues and Yesler Way and Terrace Street.

The site of the burned building was traded to Josiah Collins in 1895 for property between Fourth and Fifth Avenues South and Weller and Lane Streets, to be used for city stables, a blacksmith shop and a storage yard.

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