Columbia City

The Columbia City Landmark District is one of Seattle's eight historic districts. It is a collection of commercial buildings, churches, apartments and houses.

At its center is a "village green" with a 1914 Andrew Carnegie library branch of the Seattle Public Library. The area preserves the small town atmosphere of its turn-of-the-century roots as a mill and railroad town. In 1978, Columbia City was designated a landmark district in Seattle to preserve the area's unique character and to encourage rehabilitation of areas for community use, housing and pedestrian-oriented businesses. Columbia City was designated a National Register Historic District the same year although the boundaries are slightly different.

Both Columbia City and its neighbor, Seattle, first boomed as mill towns. But, while Seattle became dominant in the region, Columbia City was annexed by its larger neighbor just fourteen years after its incorporation. Nonetheless, Columbia City maintained its identity and remains a distinct and historic part of Seattle.

From the time of its incorporation in 1893 until its annexation by Seattle in 1907, Columbia City prospered from logging and the railroad. The Seattle, Renton, and Southern Railway stretched the seven miles from Seattle to Columbia City in 1890, establishing a profitable two-way freight business. Columbia City shipped surplus lumber to a Seattle that was rebuilding after the 1889 fire and Columbia City needed the finished goods Seattle could provide. Much of Columbia City's lumber, as well as goods from Seattle, went into its own buildings and lakeshore summer residences.

Columbia City's growth increased when C. D. Hillman used the railway to hasten real estate sales. From 1900 to 1907, Seattle and the surrounding areas grew rapidly and brought good economic times to Columbia City. Many new buildings were built along Rainier Avenue South, most of which still stand.

These buildings had stores on the ground floor and a meeting hall or dance floor upstairs. The rent supplied by the meetings, dances, and occasional apartments made construction of many of the buildings possible. As the forests around Columbia City fell under the loggers' axes, the people of Columbia City made plans to drain Wetmore Slough and make the town into a seaport as part of the 1917 Lake Washington Ship Canal development farther north. The port never developed, and the slough was filled by 1920.

With money donated by Andrew Carnegie, a branch public library was built in 1914 above a ravine deeded to the City in 1892 as a park.

Although the ravine's creek now flows through sewer lines, the park remains, providing Columbia City with its "village green."Although community concern for safety resulted in the removal in 1936 of the railway from the center of Rainier Avenue South, Columbia City continued to grow along with Seattle.

The Columbia City Application Review Committee and the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board are charged with maintaining the historic character of Columbia City, ensuring that the architectural integrity and aesthetics of the buildings and landscape are preserved. The Review Committee consists of five members, two that are appointed by the Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Board and three that are appointed by the Chair of the Columbia City Business Association. The Review Committee is responsible for making recommendations to the Board. The Board is responsible for the final review and approval of applications for Certificates of Approval for any change to the exterior appearance of buildings or structures, streets, sidewalks, and other public spaces in the District.


2016 Columbia City Review Committee Agendas

2016 Schedule

January 5, 2016 Agenda

February 2, 2016 Agenda

March 1, 2016 Agenda

April 5, 2016 Agenda

May 11, 2016 Agenda

June 7, 2016 Agenda

July 5, 2016 Cancellation Notice

August 2, 2016 Agenda

September 6, 2016 Agenda

October 4, 2016 Agenda

November 1, 2016 Agenda

December 6, 2016 Meeting Cancelled

2015 Columbia City Review Committee Agendas

January 6, 2015 Agenda

February 3, 2015 Agenda

March 3, 2015 Agenda

April 7, 2015 Agenda

May 5, 2015 Agenda

June 2, 2015 Agenda

July 7, 2015 Agenda

August 4, 2015 Agenda

September 1, 2015 Agenda

October 6, 2015 Cancellation Notice

November 3, 2015 Cancellation Notice

December 1, 2015 Agenda

» Columbia City Review Committee Agendas prior to 2015


2016 Landmarks Preservation Board Agendas and Minutes

2016 Meeting Schedule | 2016 ARC Schedule

2017 Meeting Schedule | 2017 ARC Meeting  Schedule

January 6, 2016 Agenda | January 6, 2016 Minutes

January 15, 2016 Agenda | January 15, 2016 Architectural Review Committee

January 20, 2016 Agenda | January 20, 2016 Minutes

January 29, 2016 Agenda | January 29, 2016 Architectural Review Committee

February 3, 2016 Agenda | February 3, 2016 Minutes

February 12, 2016 Agenda | February 12, 2016 Architectural Review Committee

February 17, 2016 Agenda |February 17, 2016 Minutes

February 26, 2016 Agenda | February 26, 2016 Architectural Review Committee

March 2, 2016 Agenda | March 2, 2016 Minutes

March 11, 2016 Agenda | March 11, 2016 Architectural Review Committee  NOTE LOCATION CHANGE

March 16, 2016 Agenda | March 16, 2016 Minutes

March 25, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee |

April 6, 2016 Agenda | April 6, 2016 Minutes

April 15, 2016 Agenda ] April 15, 2016 Architectural Review Committee

April 20, 2016 Agenda | April 20, 2016 Minutes

May 4, 2016 Agenda | May 4, 2016 Minutes

May 13, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee

May 18, 2016 Agenda | May 18, 2016 Minutes

May 27, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee

June 1, 2016 Agenda | June 1, 2016 Minutes

June 10, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee

June 15, 2016 Agenda | June 15, 2016 Minutes

June 24, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee NOTE LOCATION

July 6, 2016 Agenda | July 6, 2016 Minutes

July 20, 2016 Agenda | July 20, 2016 Minutes

July 29, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee

August 3, 2016 Agenda | August 3, 2016 Minutes

August 12, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee

August 17, 2016 Agenda |

September 2, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee

September 7, 2016 Agenda REVISED |

September 16, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee - Revised

September 21, 2016 Agenda |

September 30, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee NOTE LOCATION

October 5, 2016 Agenda |

October 14, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee

October 19, 2016 Agenda |

October 28, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee

November 8, 2016 Meeting Cancellation Notice

November 16, 2016 Agenda |

December 2, 2016 Agenda Architectural Review Committee

December 7, 2016 Agenda |

2015 Landmarks Preservation Board Agendas and Minutes

January 7, 2015 Agenda | January 7, 2015 Minutes

January 21, 2015 Agenda | January 21, 2015 Minutes

February 5, 2015 Agenda | February 5, 2015 Minutes

 February 18, 2015 Agenda | February 18, 2015 Minutes

 March 4, 2015 Agenda | March 4, 2015 Minutes

March 18, 2015 Agenda | March 18, 2015 Minutes

April 1, 2015 Agenda | April 1, 2015 Minutes

April 10, 2015 Agenda - Architectural Review Committee

April 15, 2015 Agenda | April 15, 2015 Minutes

May 1, 2015 Agenda - Architectural Review Committee

May 6, 2015 Agenda | May 6, 2015 Minutes

May 20, 2015 Agenda | May 20, 2015 Minutes

May 29, 2015 Agenda - Architectural Review Committee

June 3, 2015 Agenda | June 3, 2015 Minutes

June 12, 2015 Agenda - Architectural Review Committee

June 17, 2015 Agenda | June 17, 2015 Minutes

June 26, 2015 Agenda - Architectural Review Committee

July 1, 2015 Agenda | July 1, 2015 Minutes

July 15, 2015 Agenda | July 15, 2015 Minutes

July 31, 2015 Agenda | Architectural Review Committee

August 5, 2015 Agenda | August 5, 2015 Minutes

August 14, 2015 Agenda | Architectural Review Committee

August 19, 2015 Agenda | August 19, 2015 Minutes

August 28, 2015 Agenda | Architectural Review Committee

September 2, 2015 Agenda | September 2, 2015 Minutes

September 11, 2015 Agenda | Architectural Review Committee

September 16, 2015 Agenda | September 16, 2015 Minutes

October 2, 2015 Agenda | Architectural Review Committee

October 7, 2015 Agenda | October 7, 2015 Minutes

October 16, 2015 Agenda | Architectural Review Committee

October 21, 2015 Agenda | October 21, 2015 Minutes

October 30, 2015 Agenda | Architectural Review Committee

November 4, 2015 Agenda | November 4, 2015 Minutes

November 13, 2015 Agenda | Architectural Review Committee

November 18, 2015 Agenda | November 18, 2015 Minutes

December 2, 2015 Agenda |

December 11, 2015 Agenda | Architectural Review Committee

December 16, 2015 Agenda |


2014 Landmark Preservation Board Agendas and Minutes

November 5, 2014 Agenda | November 5, 2014 Minutes

November 19, 2014 Agenda | November 19, 2014 Minutes

December 3, 2014 Agenda | December 3, 2014 Minutes

» Archived Landmarks Preservation Board Agendas and Minutes


This map shows the boundaries of the Columbia City Review District:

Columbia City Review District Map

Making Changes to a Building in the Columbia City Landmark District:

What must be reviewed and approved by the Board?

The following changes require that the Board issue a Certificate of Approval before the City will issue any permits:

  • Any change to the outside of any building or structure.
  • Installation of any new sign or change to any existing sign.
  • Installation of a new awning or canopy.
  • Any change to an interior that affects the exterior.
  • New addition, construction, and/or remodel.
  • Any change in a public right-of-way or other public space, including parks and sidewalks.
  • Demolition of any building or structure.
  • Exterior painting

Making changes to buildings in Columbia City

To apply for a Certificate of Approval, please follow the instructions on this form:

1. What is the Columbia City Application Review Committee and City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board?

The Columbia City Application Review Committee and the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board are charged with maintaining the historic character of Columbia City, ensuring that the architectural integrity and aesthetics of the buildings and landscape are preserved. The Review Committee consists of five members, two that are appointed by the Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Board and three that are appointed by the Chair of the Columbia City Business Association. The Review Committee is responsible for making recommendations to the Board. The Board is responsible for the final review and approval of applications for Certificates of Approval for any change to the exterior appearance of buildings or structures, streets, sidewalks, and other public spaces in the District.2. What must be reviewed by the Review Committee and Board?The following changes require a Certificate of Approval to be issued by the Landmarks Preservation Board before the City will issue any permits:

  • Any change to the outside of any building or structure
  • Installation of any new sign or changes to existing signs
  • Installation of any new awning or canopy
  • Any change to the interior that affects the exterior
  • New addition, construction and/or remodel
  • Any change in public rights-of-way or other public spaces, including parks and sidewalks
  • Demolition of any building or structure
  • Exterior painting

3. When are Review Committee and Board Meetings?

The Review Committee typically meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 4:00 PM at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center, 3515 S. Alaska Street. The meeting schedule can be found under the Meeting Schedules, Agendas/Minutes link on this page. The Board conducts regular meetings at 3:30 p.m. the first and third Wednesday of each month at 700 Fifth Avenue, Suite 4060. All meetings are open to the public.

4. What is a Certificate of Approval?

A Certificate of Approval is an official notice of approval issued by the Columbia City Review Committee and the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. To get your project reviewed and approved, a completed Application for Certificate Approval needs to be submitted to the Landmark District Coordinator.A Certificate of Approval is not a permit. An applicant is still responsible for obtaining relevant permits after receiving approval from the Review Committee and Board. The Department of Planning and Development issues permits after an applicant has received a Certificate of Approval.

5. What is the Approval Process?

Step 1
Submit a completed application and the appropriate fee to the Historic Preservation Program, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, PO Box 94649 Seattle, WA 98124-4649.

Step 2
The Landmark District Coordinator will review the application and plans for completeness and compliance with the regulations.

Step 3
After the application is determined to be complete, it will be placed on the agenda for the next public meeting of the Review Committee.

Step 4
The Review Committee will recommend to the Landmarks Preservation Board whether to approve, approve with conditions, or deny the application.

Step 5
The Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator will schedule your application to be reviewed by the Board at one of its meetings.

Step 6
Either a Certificate of Approval or a Letter of Denial will be issued.

Step 7
You or any interested party of record may appeal a decision to the City Hearing Examiner within 14 days of the issuance of the Certificate of Approval or Letter of Denial.

6. How Do I Schedule for Review Committee Consideration?

If you are starting a new business or service, changing the location of your business within the District, or making physical changes to the outside of your property, building, or business, call the Columbia City Landmark District Coordinator at (206) 684-0226 for assistance in reviewing your plans and in scheduling for Committee review.