J&M Cafe

201 1st Avenue S

Exterior of J&M Cafe
March in Seattle passing the J&M Café, July 9, 1978

In the wake of the Great Seattle Fire, the entire neighborhood saw many of the burnt wooden stores, shops, and hotels replaced with new brick ones. Included was this one — the J & H Hotel Building on Commercial Street (today’s 1st Avenue S). Mere weeks after the fire the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that “Captain J. H. Marshall will erect a brick building on the southwest corner of Commercial and Washington Streets, which will be used by a wholesale business house … It will be built in a most substantial and durable manner and will present a massive and imposing appearance rather than ornamental. Architects Comstock and Troetsche are preparing the plans. The building will cost about $20,000.”

The original business was a wholesale liquor company, with Mr. Jamieson and his partner Mr. McFarland’s J&M Hotel above. At some point between 1899 and 1902 the duo opened the J&M Café. Its intricately carved mahogany wooden back-bar with brass beer taps and floor railings (which had been imported from Austria, and sent by ship around Cape Horn), pressed-tin ceiling, crown moldings, marble-topped tables, and vintage stained-glass signage impressed patrons from the Klondike Gold Rush era right up into the new millennia.

Between 1906 and 1916, when Prohibition began, it was dubbed the J&M Saloon. By 1908 McFarland had moved on, running his own McFarland Café on 2nd Street, with Jamieson now partnered with Mr. Moffett. During Prohibition the J&M touted its “soft drinks” – although rumors persist that it provided alcohol on the sly. In 1974 the bar served as a backdrop for John Wayne’s cop film, McQ. Following a bankruptcy, it closed in 2009 and many of its fixtures and furnishings were sold at auction that May. After a remodel, it reopened in January 2010 under the ownership of a former owner of the nearby Fenix dance club. In 2014 Kurt Fisher and Brittany Shulman bought it with plans to refurbish it.

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