George F. Frye Papers, 1873-1910  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Frye, George Frederick, 1833-1912
George F. Frye Papers
1873-1910 (inclusive)
1 box, (.21 cubic feet)
Collection Number
Ship's logbook, financial ledgers, and certificates related to George F. Frye and his businesses
Museum of History & Industry, Sophie Frye Bass Library
Sophie Frye Bass Library
Museum of History & Industry
P.O. Box 80816
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-324-1126
Fax: 206-780-1533
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public by appointment.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

German-born George Frederick Frye (1833-1912) immigrated to Seattle in 1853. He first worked with Henry Yesler, building a sawmill to produce lumber for local use and export. In 1860, he married Louisa Catherine Denny, the daughter of Seattle pioneers Arthur Armstrong and Mary Ann Boren Denny. George and Louisa Frye had six children and resided at 1306 Madison Street. They were active business partners and established several early Seattle companies, including hotels, a bakery and gristmill.

From 1870-1874, George Frye worked as the purser and later captain of the steamer J.B. Libby. Part of the mosquito fleet, the J.B Libby obtained a federal contract to deliver mail to Coupeville, Tulalip, La Conner, Samish and other remote settlements in northern Puget Sound.

George and Louisa Frye commissioned Irish born architect John Nestor (1836-1912) to design a first-class theater for Seattle. Nestor arrived in Seattle in 1883, most likely for this important commission. He had prior experience designing theaters, and the Frye Opera House was modeled on Baldwin Theater in San Francisco.

The Frye Opera House opened in December 1884 on the northeast corner of First and Marion Street. Measuring 120 feet square, the four-story building stepped down a steep grade, with first floor retail spaces set into the hillside. At a cost of $125,000, it was the most expensive building constructed in the city at the time. It was designed in French Second Empire style, and the top featured an elaborate French-style mansard roof. The auditorium seated 1,300, and also served as a multipurpose facility for local organizations in need of a large assembly space. Seattle’s Central School #1 held its first high school graduation for twelve seniors there in 1886.

From 1884 to1889, the Frye Opera House was Seattle’s premier cultural attraction, providing an expanding population with a fashionable venue for musical and dramatic performances. The building had a brick and stucco exterior, but the wood structural framing made it extremely vulnerable to fire. The Frye Opera House was completely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1889. George Frye later built Hotel Stevens on the opera house site. Turner Hall, on the corner of Jefferson and Fourth Avenue, was one of the few Seattle stages to survive the fire. The Turner Theater combined vaudeville, minstrel shows and legitimate theater entertainment while the city rebuilt.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of a ship’s logbook, three ledgers, and two certificates. The handwritten logbook of the steamer ship J.B. Libby was kept by George Frye while he served as captain. The daily entries contain detailed timetables for mail deliveries and sailing schedules to various Puget Sound ports. George Frye later used part of the marine logbook for his personal and business accounting. The ledgers for the Frye Opera House and other buildings include financial records, expenses, and detailed balance sheets showing profit and loss for individual performances. An additional ledger, containing some blank pages and incomplete entries, lists expenses and performances staged at the Turner Theater after the Great Fire of Seattle. The two certificates license George Frye as Master of Steam Vessels for 1873 and 1874.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Museum of History & Industry is the owner of the materials in the Sophie Frye Bass Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from MOHAI before any reproduction use. The museum does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

George F. Frye Papers, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1/1 2005.38.1: Logbook for steamer J.B. Libby
This logbook contain handwritten entries by George Frye, Captain, on pages 1-120, dated 1873 to 1874. The book also contains an additional ledger kept by George Frye for business and personal expenses, on pages 121-190, dated 1885-1910
1/2 2005.38.2: United States Inspectors certificates issued to George F. Frye for Master of Steam Vessels, Puget Sound region 1873, 1874
1/3 2005.38.3: Ledger of expenses for Frye Opera House and other buildings 1882-1887
1/4 2005.38.4: Ledger for the Frye Opera House, including balance sheets for performances 1887
1/5 2005.38.5: Ledger for Frye Opera House and Turner Hall 1889-1890

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Accounting
  • Ship captains--American--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Personal Names :
  • Frye, George Frederick, 1833-1912 --Archives
  • Corporate Names :
  • Frye Opera House
  • Geographical Names :
  • United States--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Account books
  • Certificates
  • Logbooks