Jules Maes - 1937/1907

Back to Seattle's Oldest Bars

Jules Maes features signs that prominently claim "Since 1888," and local newspapers have refered to Jules Maes himself working there in 1888. This would make Jules the oldest bar in the current Seattle city limits (the Georgetown area was annexed by Seattle March 29, 1910). However in 1888 the building hosting the bar had not yet been built, and Jules Maes had not yet emigrated to the United States.

The building at 5919 Airport Way was constructed in 1898 (Note: King County parcel information says "1900," but this was once common for any building constructed on or before 1900.), and Maes did not move there from his bar at 5953 until 1937. According to the some of the more in depth histories online, the building was first a saloon in 1907. Absent any additional evidence, this would seem to be the very earliest to which you could date a bar at this location The first bar owner I have found listed is F.L. Hudson in 1913. But it would not be leased by Jules Maes until 1936 and he ran it for just one year starting in 1937 before he passed away. Over the years it hosted a number of bars and other businesses on the ground floor, with the upper floor used for everything from pigeon races to newspaper publishing, and eventually serving as apartments. Jules Maes emigrated to the U.S. from Belgium in 1892. By 1902 he was in Seattle working in a South Park bar and by the next year he is listed as co-owner. Maes worked at the South Park Tavern at 110 Valley Road from 1902 to 1905, when he returned to Belgium, was married to Leionie Vehulst, and returned to Georgetown the following year. Starting sometime between 1906-1908, he purchased the Maple Leaf Saloon at 823 Rainier (now Airport Way), a location that currently hosts the "Old Immigration and Naturalization Service Building," constructed in 1930 just east of what is now the Seahawks stadium). This tribute indicates that in 1912 Maes sold the Maple Leaf and started the "Rainier Bar" at 5953 Duwamish. However, the 1910 Polk guide also lists him as the owner of a bar at 306 Rainier Ave S, and the 1911 edition lists him as owner at 7301 Duwamish (now Airport Way), and neither lists him at the old Maple Leaf location; so it appears he had a couple more changes in location at that time.

The business at 5953 was not actually named "Jules Maes'" until 1928, when it was a restaurant and pool hall during prohibition. In 1934 Maes is granted a liquor permit to sell beer again. In 1936 the 5953 building was damaged by fire and in 1937 Maes relocated to the current location of Jules Maes up the road at 5919, where the location had briefly hosted a hardware store. The 5953 building briefly reverted to the "Rainier Pool Room" then became the "Georgetown Tavern" by 1939 which it would remain into the 1990s. Also in 1936 Maes incorporated Jules Maes Inc., with his brother Valentine and his wife's brother-in-law Remi Kerkof. Jules passed away in 1937, and Leonie, Valentine and Remi continue to operate the bar, though naming it back to the Rainier Pool Room around 1945. In 1949 Leonie dies, and Valentine continues to operate the bar until 1962. Also in 1949, Jules Maes Inc. obtains a license to sell liquor by the glass.

Jules then disappears from bar sections of Seattle Polk directories for decades, and begins being listed in the Restaurants section in the early 60s and continuing into at least the late 80s. We know that in 1988 it was purchased by June and Espeland and her son Jay, and operated as "Jules Maes Saloon and Eatery." Subsequently it briefly served as a custom door and glass shop, then sold in 2004 to Vanessa and John LeMaster, who did some substantial remodeling.

While I see no reasonable way that Jules Maes can claim to date back to 1888, it is an old and lovely bar, and preserves the sense of a pre-prohibition saloon better than any bar in Seattle, and with few peers in the state.

Postscript: Jules Maes closed in March of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, then was announced permanently closed in June 2020 due to a rent increase described by the owner as unsustainable. However, it reopened on Jan 12, 2021 under new management.

Some sources: georgetownhistory.com findagrave.com

Additional Photos: (Under construction)

Back to Project K-Bar Main Page