92 Yesler

92 Yesler Way

Contemporary photo of 92 Yesler location
92 Yesler vinyl pressing, named after folk club, 1962
Press photo of 92 Yesler club owners Mike. Moloso and Geoffrey Robert Mitchell, December 3, 1961

On this approximate site originally stood Henry Yesler’s circa 1853 sawmill, which in 1869 was moved westward onto a large new wharf. The Yesler-Leary building took its place, but both burned in the Great Seattle Fire in 1889. In 1890 this first “Yesler Building” – a Victorian Romanesque sandstone structure designed by architect Elmer H. Fisher (1840-1905) — was built at 601 Front Street (today’s 1st Avenue). In 1897 the Mutual Life Insurance Company bought it and five more floors were eventually added.

During Prohibition a legendary speakeasy, the Beachcomber Club, moved in, but after a fire in 1943 it reopened as the 92 Club. Then it went quiet for years. In 1961 Bob Mitchell and Mike Moloso rented it and discovered that the original bandshell, tables, and chairs were all still intact. On December 23, 1961, their all-ages pizza-and-coffee folk club, 92 Yesler, opened. Moloso and his wife Margaret – Mike & Maggie — were the regular entertainers, and the room saw plenty of other earnest folk singers and strummers performing their Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan covers for enthusiastic audiences.

Future restaurant baron Mick McHugh recast the club as a coffee house in July 1963, and in September an Irish tourist named Ian Whitcomb stopped in, played some piano, girls screamed, and McHugh referred him to Seattle’s Jerden Record company. Whitcomb signed a contract and later recorded “Louie Louie,” the area’s unofficial rock anthem. In the early 1960s folk singer Billy Roberts rolled into town and played 92 Yesler, wowing other folkies with original tunes like “Hey Joe,” which became a standard. When recorded by Seattle native Jimi Hendrix in 1966, “Hey Joe” launched Hendrix’s phenomenal career.

Cross 1st Avenue and walk east on Yesler to our next stop.

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