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Summary for 315 Seneca ST / Parcel ID 0942000120 / Inv #

Historic Name: Continental Hotel / Earl Hotel Common Name: Hotel Seattle
Style: Art Deco Neighborhood: Commercial Core
Built By: Year Built: 1926
 
Significance
This property is directly associated with the early twentieth century developmental era (1920-1930) when a significant number of commercial buildings were constructed and the modern downtown commercial district was fully established. In 1923, Seattle adopted its first ordinance that regulated specific geographic areas for specified uses; it allowed the most densely concentrated commercial development to occur in the downtown core. The economic prosperity of the 1920s stimulated the development of numerous major highrise commercial buildings, as well as smaller-scale bank and commercial buildings, major hotels and apartment hotels, club buildings and entertainment facilities, which were typically designed by leading Seattle architects. During this era, the original residential district was entirely absorbed by commercial and other real estate development. By 1930, virtually all of the old residential properties - as well as many of the immediate post-fire era commercial buildings outside of Pioneer Square - had been demolished or removed. The concept of the modern hotel that would include private rooms, toilet and bathing facilities, public spaces and related guest services, originated in the early nineteenth century. By 1853, the settlement community of Seattle included its first hotel, the Felker House. By the later part of the nineteenth century, Seattle - like cities throughout the United States - included a significant number of hotels that served a wide variety of business travelers, tourists and both permanent and semi-permanent residents. By the late 1880s several elegant hotels as well as workingmen’s hotels were clustered along the west side of First Avenue between Cherry and Columbia – in proximity to the original railway passenger depot. Urban hotels, lodging and apartment buildings all closely resembled commercial office buildings in the 1880s and 1890s; it was not until the 1920s that hotel design became distinctly different in exterior appearance. Early hotel development was clearly stimulated by improvements in railroad service that brought immigrants and drew tourists and entrepreneurs. Prior to the fire of 1889, the Occidental – Seattle Hotel (1864, 1887 & 1889, destroyed), was the city’s premier tourist-oriented hotel, although there were numerous other hotels located within the commercial district. At least a dozen hotels were destroyed in the great fire of 1889; however, within four years some 63 hotels were in operation. After the fire, both the Rainier Hotel (1889, destroyed) between Columbia and Marion Streets above Fifth Avenue and the Rainier-Grand Hotel (c.1889, destroyed) at First Avenue and Marion Street functioned as the major tourist hotels. The Rainier had been intended initially to serve as a resort hotel, as was The Denny Hotel (1890-1892, destroyed). Both were large wood-frame buildings located above the commercial and residential districts with panoramic views out to the harbor. Other major post-fire tourist-oriented hotels included the Butler Hotel (1893, partly destroyed) and the Lincoln Hotel (1900, destroyed by fire in 1920) at Fourth Avenue and Madison Street. The Lincoln was promoted as an elegant residential hotel with family-style living quarters. By the turn of the century, tourist and residential hotels lined the west side of First Avenue to Pike Street. Based on the number of hotels that were operating in Seattle by 1900, it is certain that they mostly catered to long-term residents rather than temporary visitors. Many buildings that were identified as hotels actually functioned as lodging houses or apartment hotels. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, hotel living was particularly common especially in the developing cities of the American West. Hotels varied significantly in size and accommodations provided and served every economic level from those of wealth to recent immigrants and transient salesmen and laborers. Given the tremendous population growth in Seattle after 1902, hotels and lodging houses played an important role in absorbing a new and largely transient populous. While large resort or tourist-oriented hotels like the Rainier-Grande Hotel and the Denny Hotel are noteworthy, the great majority of hotel buildings built after 1900 and prior to the 1920s were much more modest operations. A particularly significance boom in hotel development occurred between 1906 and 1910 in conjunction with local economic opportunities and population growth as well as the opening of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (AYP) Exposition of 1909 that drew some 3.7 million visitors. By 1910, Polk’s Directory included over 475 hotel listings. Family-style hotels were designed to include suites of rooms that would be used by individuals who needed especially comfortable long-term accommodations for their relocated families or those who traveled regularly but maintained a principal residence elsewhere. Apartment hotels differed from apartment living in that regular household help and meals were provided as part of the hotel services. During the 1920s, a second boom in major hotel development occurred at which time several luxury hotels and large apartment hotels were built in the downtown commercial district. They contrasted with earlier hotels that were rarely taller than six-stories; like their neighboring office buildings, these new hotels were significantly larger and taller multi-story buildings that accommodated hundreds of guest rooms. Several were designed to include kitchen facilities and promoted for both hotel and apartment hotel purposes, including: the Spring Apartment Hotel (Kennedy, Vintage Park, 1922); Claremont Apartment Hotel (Hotel Andre, 1925); and Camlin Apartment Hotel (1926). The construction of the highly luxurious Olympic Hotel at a pivotal central location in the Metropolitan Tract in 1923 appears to have spurred other major hotel construction nearby, including: the Spring Apartment Hotel (Kennedy, Vintage Park, 1922); Continental Hotel (Hotel Seattle, 1926) and the Hungerford Hotel (Pacific Plaza, 1928). Simultaneously, numerous hotels were developed nearer the new retail core at the north end of the commercial district, including: the Vance Hotel (1926); the Benjamin Franklin Hotel (1928, destroyed) and the Bergonian Hotel (Mayflower Park Hotel, 1927). The design for most – but not all – of these hotels included large lobbies, restaurants, meeting rooms, and storefront level retail spaces. They were typically executed in a modest neoclassical mode with brick cladding and distinctive terra cotta ornament at the base and building cap. The 17-story Roosevelt Hotel, designed in the distinctive Art Deco style was completed in 1930. It was the last major downtown hotel constructed during this era and the tallest to be built until the late 1960s. In 1969, the 13-story Benjamin-Franklin Hotel was interconnected to a new 40-story tower wing and renamed the Washington Plaza Hotel. In 1980, the Benjamin Franklin Hotel was demolished in order to construct a second (44-story) tower wing, now known as the Westin Hotel. Constructed in 1926, the Continental Hotel was the second major hotel to be constructed downtown during this era, after the luxurious Olympic Hotel was had been completed in 1924. It was designed and constructed for Stephen Berg, an active real estate and hotel developer during this era. Mr. Berg was a successful local builder and real estate developer who developed, owned and operated several hotels including the Claremount Apartment Hotel (1925), the Continental Hotel (Hotel Seattle, 1927), and the Bergonian Hotel (Mayflower Park Hotel, 1928) until 1933. The property was purchased by Frederick T. Fischer in 1935. Prior to 1937, the hotel became known as the Earl Hotel. This name indicates that the building may have been owned by Joseph Vance. The fourteen-story Joseph Vance Building was initially designed and planned as a hotel, but was instead developed as a commercial office building. The initial name for that hotel project was the “Earl Hotel” – named after Vance’s son Earl. In 1957, a new “drive-in” entrance and addition was planned for the hotel that would provide room for 50 automobiles. The project also included the modernization of the hotel exterior and lobby. The latter project appears to have been completed; the architect for that work was George Bolotin. Stephen Berg was born in Norway where he was trained in the carpenter’s trade from his father. He immigrated to the United States in 1905 where he settled in Boston for a short while before migrating to Seattle. In 1909, after having worked for others, he established his own contracting business. He received his naturalization papers in 1913. By 1916, berg was credited with having built and sold some 125 buildings – primarily family homes. By then he was a member of the Seattle Real Estate Association and held numerous improved and unimproved pieces of real estate. By 1927, Berg is reported to have developed seven large buildings downtown and was referred to in the local press as a “pioneer uptown hotel builder” possibly in reference to the Continental Hotel (1926) and the Claremont Apartment Hotel (1925). In 1928, he built the Bergonian Hotel (Mayflower Park Hotel). Berg continued to be listed as a contractor in city directories until 1934, after which he is no longer listed. Bertram Dudley Stuart (1885-1977) practiced in Seattle after 1918 and in partnership with Arthur Wheatley from 1925 until 1930. Mr. Stuart and the firm are credited with the design of numerous apartment houses and hotels, including; Exeter Apartments House (1927); Marlborough Apartments (1926-27); and the Bergonian Hotel (1928) and the Claremount Apartment Hotel (1926), also for Mr. Berg. Stuart and Wheatley are also known to have designed the Biltmore Apartments for Stephen Berg. Stuart was in partnership with Robert Durham for 1941-77. He founded the Craftsmen Guild of Washington in 1939 and served as secretary-treasurer until 1956. Extensive storefront level alterations have significantly impacted the architectural character of this building such that it is a modest example of this downtown property type, tourist-oriented hotel. However, it is associated with the work of a notable Seattle architectural partnership, Stuart and Wheatley and with an influential local hotel developer of the era.
 
Appearance
Located mid-block on the south side of Seneca Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, this 11-story hotel building (with a concrete foundation/basement) originally included 90 hotel rooms, some of which may have functioned as apartments. It measures 60’x 60’ with five window bays oriented toward Seneca Street and exhibits a two-part vertical block façade composition with modest Moderne architectural character. The brick and reinforced concrete structure includes a concrete foundation and basement and is clad at the shaft with a smooth painted concrete stucco finish. The shaft is accentuated by two side bays and a prominent central vertical bay composed of four piers and three central window bays that project above the main roof line. The top of the shaft is further accentuated at the 10th floor level (at the central bay) by segmental arched windows with ornamental terra cotta spandrels. These windows are flanked at the side bays by segmental arched windows with ornate surrounds and narrow terra cotta clad balconies. Sets of round arched windows with terra cotta surrounds also accentuate the raised 11th floor/penthouse level. At the side (west) elevation, small concrete balconies are located at the center of each floor level and the 10th floor level side bays also include narrow terra cotta clad balconies and segmental arched windows with terra cotta surrounds. Original 1/1 double-hung windows appear to remain in place. The original building base and storefront/lobby levels have been extensively altered. The original two-story terra cotta cladding at the base has been removed with only two portions of ornament currently remaining in place. The storefront was remodeled c.1962 and a modern pre-cast concrete entry canopy and cladding were installed. There do not appear to be any intact or architecturally significant interior building features, finishes or public spaces.

Detail for 315 Seneca ST / Parcel ID 0942000120 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Domestic - Hotel Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: eleven
Unit Theme(s): Commerce
Integrity
Changes to Windows: Slight
Changes to Interior: Extensive
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Storefront: Extensive
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Aldredge, Lydia. Impressions of Imagination: Terra Cotta Seattle, Allied Arts of Seattle, 1986.

Photo collection for 315 Seneca ST / Parcel ID 0942000120 / Inv #


Photo taken May 18, 2006

Photo taken May 18, 2006
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