The Penthouse

701 1st Avenue

The breeze block facade of The Penthouse
Penthouse and Kenneth Hotel at 1st. Ave. and Cherry St., December 1961
Contemporary photo of The Penthouse location

Now home to the 1st & Columbia Parking Building, this site originally held 1884’s Merchant’s National Bank Building, which burned in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Thereafter, the seven-story Safe Deposit Building was built, and in 1956 was sold and renamed the Reliance Building. In January 1962, mere months before crowds descended to visit the Century 21 World’s Fair, Charlie Puzzo launched The Penthouse jazz club here. It had a profound effect on the city by offering shows by many of the greatest jazz stars, including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Anita O’Day.

One reason the room got popular quickly was that KING-FM radio DJ Jim Wilke broadcast Penthouse shows live for seven years. Among other highlights were shows by comedian Bill Cosby, rocker Little Richard, and young gospel/soul singer Aretha Franklin. Top local jazz artists such as Ernestine Anderson, Larry Coryell, Carlos Ward, and Joe Brazil also played here, as did Seattle’s folk/pop hit-makers, the Brothers Four. Perhaps the most fabled booking of all was the Coltrane combo’s September 27 to October 2, 1965, gig. The night of the 30th was recorded by a local studio engineer and later released as the famous “Live in Seattle” LP. In 1968 the club was shuttered, the building soon razed, and a parking lot erected.

Proceed south on 1st Avenue. The large building on the northwest corner of 1st and Yesler is the Yesler Building, built in 1890. It was home to three venues on our tour: The Pioneer Banque, Bahamas Underground, and 92 Yesler.

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