Austin A. Bell Building

2326 1st Avenue

Bell Apartments, Austin A. Bell Building, Seattle, 2007, Photo by Joe Mabel (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Austin A. Bell Building architectural detail, Seattle, 2016, Photo by Joe Mabel (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Austin A. Bell Building entryway detail, Seattle, 1970, Photo by Werner Lenggenhager, Courtesy Seattle Public Library (spl_wl_bui_00439)
Austin A. Bell Building (center) from Battery Street, Seattle, ca. 1915, Courtesy MOHAI (1983.10.10038)
Austin A. Bell Building illustration, 1889, Courtesy UW Special Collections (SEA0599)

2326 1st Avenue

This Gothic and Italianate-styled building has a colorful past. It was conceived by Seattle native Austin Americus Bell (1854-1889), who was born in his family’s log cabin across the street from here. Bell suffered from poor health and died by suicide at age 35, before construction could begin. His widow, Eva Bell, pressed on with the project, hiring architect Elmer Fisher to design the Austin A. Bell Building. When it opened n 1890, it featured 63 upstairs apartments and commercial space on the ground floor. Seven years later it became a hotel and dancehall for miners during the Alaska Gold Rush of 1897. About a century later, Northwest novelist Tom Robbins rented a loft here.

Next door to the Austin A. Bell Building, Eva Bell commissioned the Barnes Building (at 2320-2322 1st Avenue), which served as the home of the Ionic Masonic Hall No. 7. Both structures were damaged by fire in 1913 and again in 1981. The Austin A. Bell Building was added to the National Register in 1974 and was designated a City of Seattle Landmark in 1978. The building eventually fell into disrepair. Weatherworn and gutted, it was sold in 1997 for $1 million, and then rebuilt as a 49-unit loft-style condominium with retail space.

Continue north on 1st Avenue to Wall Street, and then west on Wall, down the hill to Western Avenue.

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