Browne's Star Grill & Pochert Building
Kellogg-Sicker Building (aka Browne's Star Grill)
Address: 1114-16 Martin Luther King Jr.Way
Construction Date: 1906
Architect: Carl August Darmer
Address: 1110-1112 Martin Luther King Jr.Way
Construction Date: 1904
Architect: Carl August Darmer
A pioneer architect in Tacoma, Darmer was responsible for designing a number of prominent buildings in the city, including several hotels, the first Chamber of Commerce Building, the German Lutheran Church on South I Street, First Presbyterian (when it was located at South G and 10th Streets), the Unitarian Church on South Tacoma Avenue, the 1893 Synagogue for Beth Israel, the Point Defiance Park Superintendent’s House and several early school buildings. By the 1950s much of Darmer’s work had been replaced by newer construction. These two commercial structures are rare extant examples of Darmer’s work.
Darmer was born in Stralsund, Germany on July 19, 1858 and studied architecture at Hoexter College. In 1882 Darmer traveled to the United States, and was employed as an architect in the firm of Curlett, Mooser and Macy in San Francisco, CA. In 1884 Darmer moved to Tacoma and formed the architectural firm of Farrel & Darmer. Darmer collaborated with a number of other architects, including Charles N. Daniels and John C. Proctor during this time. Darmer worked in Tacoma from 1885 until his retirement in the mid 1930s. He passed away in Tacoma in 1952.
Builders Frank G. Kellogg and Robert Sicker hired Darmer to design the building and J. G. Dickson as the contractor. Like many commercial buildings of the era, the structure housed retail establishments on the main floor and residential units on the second floor. Three main types of tenants occupied the building for most of the twentieth century; dry good stores, grocery stores, and physician/dental offices.
By 1968 Browne’s Star Grill was operating from this location. The restaurant had originally opened as a cigar and newspaper stand on 1219 Pacific Avenue. Francis Browne remained owner of the establishment until 1977. The popular neighborhood restaurant continued until it was forced to close its doors when the City of Tacoma purchased the building in 2005.
Herman Carl Pochert financed the building, which was designed by Darmer and built by the Knoell Brothers construction firm. There were a number of businesses that occupied the building, ranging from shoe stores, to vaudeville theatre, a carpet store, and a hotel. John Samuelson, a native of Sweden, ran Samuelson’s Shoe Store at this address for almost 35 years. Click here to view a photo of the Pochert Building from Tacoma Public Library's collection.
A review of businesses housed in both buildings highlight the multi-ethnic diversity of the neighborhood with Scandinavian, Middle Eastern and Japanese business owners. Historic “K” Street had a strong booster organization. By the 1960s urban flight had left this once bustling area of Tacoma increasingly underutilized. In 2005, the City purchased half the city block, including these two buildings. The four parcels were then going to be sold to a private developer for demolition and construction of a mixed-use building. The Kellogg-Sicker and Pochert buildings have been vacant and in decay since the City obtained ownership of the property. The buildings are in the heart of what once was a thriving commercial district.
In partnership with the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council and the MLK Sub-area Plan Steering Committee, Historic Tacoma submitted a nomination for the buildings to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places in October 2012. The first hearing before the Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled for February 13, 2013 with the public hearing tentatively scheduled for about one month later. Historic Tacoma is currently working with a private developer and the Tacoma Housing Authority, each of which is looking to redevelop the properties.
Photo credits: Gerry Sperry