Caring for Mariners (Seamen’s Institute)

Pike Place and Pine Street

Pike Place Market skywalk and market parking, Western Avenue, May 31, 2008, Photo by Rootology (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Seamen's Institute, 1601 Western Avenue, 1906-1920, Courtesy UW Special Collections (SEA1233)
Looking south to Seamen's Institute, Western Avenue, Seattle, May 19, 1909, Courtesy UW Special Collections (139)
Retired sailor with ship model, Seamen's Institute, ca. 1906, Courtesy MOHAI (1983.10.7695)
Seamen's Institue (left), Western Avenue, Seattle, 1921, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives (22404)

Pike Place and Pine Street

To the west of here, below Pike Place Market, is Western Avenue. At what is now 1901 Western, there used to be a several-story tall wooden building. You can see the location from the Market’s north arcade.

For many decades in Seattle’s early history, sailing and shipping were dominant trades. They spawned a consequent set of businesses, unions, and societies devoted to those workers, including the Seattle Seamen’s Friend Society. It was established in 1878 to look “after the interests of seamen visiting this port, and saving many seamen—especially the younger ones—from ruin,” said George West, chaplain of the institution. It was one of many such benevolent societies around the country. After a variety of temporary locations, the Society opened its Seamen’s Institute at 1601 Western Avenue (now the Pike Place Market Parking Garage) in 1904. Visitors could find a workshop, gymnasium, laundry, library, dining, and lodging, as well as a school that taught English and navigation. It was also open to firemen and longshoremen. The YMCA eventually acquired the building and maintained the benevolent society focused on the social, moral, and spiritual benefit of seamen. After the YMCA sold it in 1955, the building became the Bayview Hotel, until a parking lot replaced it in 1974.

Proceed four blocks north on Western to Blanchard Street. On the northeast corner is our next stop, the former Union Stables.

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