Herman Chapin purchased, for Boston backers, the northeast and southeast corners of Columbia Street and Second Avenue. On the latter he raised the four-story brick Boston Block and on the former, the Colonial Building.

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A LIBERAL-ARTS graduate from Harvard, the not-yet-30 Herman Chapin came to Seattle in 1886 to seek opportunities and invest East Coast money — most of it not his own — in Seattle real estate. Chapin purchased for his Boston backers the northeast and southeast corners of Columbia Street and Second Avenue. On the latter he raised the four-story brick Boston Block and on the former what is seen here: the Colonial Building, aka the Chapin Block.

For Chapin the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, was a good thing. The heat popped the windows of both buildings, but the flames did not cross Second Avenue, making the New Englander’s properties landmarks in Seattle’s rebuilding. Even before the glaziers replaced all the windows, the two blocks transformed to hives of enterprise, stuffed with merchants and professionals displaced by the fire.

The city’s post office moved around the corner from the Boston building to its own comely structure attached to the Colonial Building (here far right). The P.O. stayed there until 1899. In this ca. 1900 view, James Justice’s stationary store is signed there above the sidewalk. Among the Colonial’s tenants were Masajiro Furuya’s Japanese Bazaar (with a storefront on Second); cycling enthusiast Victor Hugo Smith’s office in rooms 8 and 9 for selling tideland lots; and “mail order tailors” Irving and Cannon.

In 1905, the St. Louis brewer Adolph Busch tried to buy the Colonial corner to put up “the largest hotel in Seattle.” The sale developed a hitch. At $365,000, it cost too much. Instead, the Bostonians kept to this corner, replacing it with the two-story ornament still standing, the new home then for the Seattle National Bank. Herman Chapin was for many years a director there.

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