About Quizzes

The Bell Apartments and the Barnes Building

Elmer H. Fisher is best known as the dominant architect of Seattle's reconstruction after The Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889, that burned a considerable portion of the downtown business district. In the aftermath of the Great Fire, Fisher designed and supervised the construction of more than 50 buildings, bringing order into an otherwise chaotic rebuilding campaign. The Bell Apartments and the Barnes Building dominate the other buildings in the area. The Bell Apartments and the Barnes Building share certain features: a common wall, four-story height and the extensive use of brick. At the same time, however, their differences show how Fisher adapted to changes in goals and budgets. The Bell Apartments building was the more elaborate of the two, combining three different design styles. The building was named for Austin Americus Bell, the original owner and the wealthy son of one of Seattle's original settlers. In 1889, only one day after discussing his plans for what would become the Bell Apartments, Bell committed suicide. Mrs. Bell pushed for the completion of the building in her late husband's honor, and had his name emblazoned on the building. Bell also commissioned the Barnes Building, which was built on a more limited budget and received a more basic treatment. Its exterior features little detail and lacks the parapet that distinguishes the top of the Bell Apartments. It originally served as the home of the Odd Fellows fraternal organization. Each building has passed through a number of uses in its history, and together they stand as evidence of Fisher's influence on the architecture of Seattle.