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Early Builder in Yakima — A. E. Larson

By Robert E. Pace

Completed Larson Building — c 1937
Click on image above to browse Yakima Memory Collections on this subject.

One of the early builders of note in the new town of North Yakima was A. E. Larson. Born in Minnesota in 1862, he came west in 1884 and spent his early years in the timber business on the Washington and Oregon coast. He came to Yakima in 1891 and purchased the Scott Lumber Yard as his first business venture. Eight years later he built the Yakima Avenue theater building and in 1900 the Larson Theater. Ten years later he had the Donnelly Hotel built and be became owner of the Ford franchise with another businessman, Grover Burrows.

However, his greatest achievement, and one that he will always be remembered, is the A. E. Larson Building located at the corner of 2nd Street and Yakima Avenue. It was a bold gamble to start construction of such a project in the midst of the great depression, but Larson wanted to do something for the city of Yakima that would both help the city as well as serve as a landmark.

The plan was to build a modern eleven story office building by consulting with the best architects from around the country and using the best materials available, creating a building that "will stand as a sentinel of the Yakima Valley, beautiful in the perfect harmony of architecture and decoration."

The building, as planned, was completed in the summer of 1931. On September 26, 1931 the building was open to the public for viewing for the first time. And what a structure to behold, there was nothing like it — anywhere.

According to the handout pamphlet on the opening day the building offered the following amenities:

The building was 188 feet high — to the top of the flagpole, and was divided into 225 offices. It was of "Class A" fireproof construction throughout. The spacious main lobby with walls of black and red Italian Marble with cast plasters ceiling ornamented in modern style of the day. The floors of marble inlay that have designs worked in by the use of marble and brass-dividing strips imbedded into the terrazzo, separating the different colors to form a design. All of this will reflect the shading of the marble walls and special cast bonze elevator fronts. The 365 flawless Browne windows throughout the building insure perfection of vision and maximum light.

The architect devoted much time and study to the floors that would be equipped especially for the Medical and Dental professions. Compressed air service, gas service, arm control faucets on special medical lavatories, special run-outs for electrical service as well as for hot and cold water, were among the things included in these floors.

Larson wrote upon completion of the building: "The decision to erect this building was based upon a deep-seated faith in the further development and continued future prosperity of Yakima and of the Yakima Valley."

"Perhaps present conditions do not warrant, from a return or earning standpoint, in investment of three-quarters of a million dollars in this building, but that phase of the project has been over-shadowed by an earnest desire to do something in a substantial and a serviceable way for Yakima and it’s people."

"While we have endeavored to attain architectural beauty and dignity, the ‘Big Idea’ has been to build for the safety, comfort and convenience of the professional and business people who will occupy this building, as well as for the patients, clients and customers who visit them."

The building certainly had met his goals and dreams and would instantly become a landmark in the city of Yakima.

Less than three years later, in June 1934, A. E. Larson died at the age of 72.

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