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Summary for 2013 2nd AVE / Parcel ID 1977200885 / Inv #

Historic Name: Hotel Nelson Common Name: Hotel Commodore
Style: Commercial Neighborhood: Downtown Urban Center
Built By: Year Built: 1909
 
Significance
This property is directly associated with the initial period (1902-1920) of downtown commercial expansion that occurred due to local economic prosperity after the Klondike Gold Rush and in tandem with explosive population growth and suburban residential development. During this era, modern urban architectural scale began with the construction of the earliest steel-frame highrise buildings and the establishment of a concentration of banking enterprises and department stores along Second Avenue from Cherry Street to Pike Street. The initial regrading of Denny Hill and the commercial redevelopment of the former University Grounds (University/Metropolitan Tract) were major factors that facilitated northward and eastward commercial expansion. In 1914, the owners of the Frederick and Nelson Department Store purchased property with the intention of building a large, five-story store at Fifth Avenue and Pine Street, thus solidifying the location of the future downtown retail core. A significant number of extant commercial properties dating from this era remain within the downtown commercial core, including: numerous hotels, several business blocks and early highrise commercial buildings, as well as specialty and department stores, apartment houses and theaters. 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. 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. 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. While large resort or tourist-oriented hotels 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. Particularly noteworthy family-style and luxury hotels constructed during this era include: the 12-story Savoy Hotel (1906, destroyed) on Second Avenue near University Street; the New Washington Hotel (Josephinum, 1908) and the Moore Hotel and Theater (1907), both built after the initial regrade of Denny Hill; and the Frye Hotel (1910) at Yesler Way and Third Avenue located near the new passenger railway facilities at Jackson Street. Such well-appointed hotels would typically include comfortable lobby areas, restaurants, event and meeting rooms, and provide special housekeeping, laundry and meal services for their guests. Other extant tourist-oriented and residential hotels constructed in the expanding commercial district during this era include: the Millburn Hotel (1902, altered); Sterling Hotel (1903, altered); Irwin Hotel (Green Tortoise Hostel, 1905, destroyed); Kingsbury Hotel (Glen Hotel, 1907); Raleigh/Imperial Hotel (1907, altered); Riopath Hotel (1908, altered); Shirley Hotel (1908, altered); Elliott Hotel (Hahn Building, 1908); Oxford Hotel (1909); Madrona Hotel (1909); Hotel Larned (1909); Nelson Hotel(Commodore,1909); Archibald Hotel (St. Regis, 1909); Hotel Afton (Atwood Hotel, 1910); Calhoun Hotel (Palladian, 1910); Crouley Building/Reynolds Hotel (1910); and the Governor/Rector Hotel (St. Charles, 1911). 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. The national economic collapse brought on by the Great Depression during the 1930s brought downtown real estate development to a virtual halt. Old hotel buildings in Pioneer Square as well as those lining First Avenue and near the Pike Place Market provided cheap housing and services for an increasingly transient and displaced low-income population, a pattern that continued into the late 1960s. A tragic fire in 1970 prompted revisions to the city’s fire code and new fire safety measures forced the closure of many residential hotels and displaced thousands of low-income residents and service providers. As a result many of the older residential hotels were either demolished or remained vacant and unused for many years. The Hotel Nelson was designed for and financed by the Coblentz brothers in 1908-09. The brothers’ formal business partnership, D & A Coblentz, Wholesale and Retail Cigars, began with cigar outlets in Pioneer Square and led to what appears to be a speculative investment in the hotel industry due to the anticipation of influx of travelers for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Little additional information is known about t the circumstances related to its construction, the early history of the hotel, or the management prior to the mid-1920s, when the establishment first became known as the Hotel Commodore. The Hotel Nelson was designed by Seattle architect William P. White. Although little is known about White, including his date and place of birth and educational background, he is said to have worked in Butte, Montana from 1897 until 1902 and practiced in partnership there with Werner Lignell. White appears to have practiced architecture in Seattle from 1902 until c.1918, without ever forming a professional partnership. He specialized in the design of hotel and apartment buildings, and is credited with the design of several in the downtown area, First Hill, the south end of Capitol Hill, and at least one on Queen Anne Hill. His approach to apartment building design stressed lighting and ventilation, a somewhat common concern of design professionals at that time based on social and health reforms of the era. He was also concerned with designing appropriately for higher density housing units. His specialty may have been recognized among his design colleagues, as he published an article entitled “Apartment Buildings” in the Pacific Builder and Engineer in March of 1907. By 1919, White had begun work in the Navy shipyards as a draftsman during World War I and was employed there until his death in 1932. His known extant works in Seattle include the Calhoun Hotel (Palladian Apartments, 1910), the Imperial Apartments/Paramount Apartments (c.1907) on Capitol Hill, and the Kinnear Apartments (c.1907) on Queen Anne Hill. Other known works that are no longer extant include the Astor Hotel (c.1909), the Knickerbocker Apartments, the Manhattan Flats, and the Jefferson Apartments. White is also known to have designed one apartment building in Vancouver, British Columbia. Formerly the Sylvia Court Apartments (c.1912), the Sylvia Hotel was the first large scale development in Vancouver’s West End near Stanley Park and was the tallest building in the neighborhood until 1958. It is a recognized as a “heritage building” and was listed on the Vancouver city register in 1975. [Refer to City Landmark Nomination Form for additional information on history and significance of the Hotel Nelson.] This property was nominated as a City Landmark and denied nomination/designation in the fall of 2006.
 
Appearance
[The following information is distilled from an in-depth report regarding this property that was prepared by Beth Dodrill-Rezghi and submitted to the City of Seattle Historic Preservation Program on August 18, 2006.] Located at mid-block on the west side of Second Avenue between Virginia Street and Lenora Street, this six-story hotel building is a unreinforced brick masonry and mill construction. It has a concrete foundation and measures approximately 60 feet wide and 109 feet deep. It has an I-shaped plan with the center portions of the north and south walls are recessed above the first floor level to allow for light-wells. Stylistically the building is somewhat Neoclassical in organization and ornamentation. The two-part vertical block façade composition is visible on the primary east façade only. Ornamental detail is rather simple. The building does not convey a particularly strong representation or execution of the style. The original primary east façade is relatively intact above the first story. The upper wall is clad in pressed brick veneer that is painted beige with most cast stone ornamental details painted cream. The first story primary façade, which was altered in 1950, currently retains the 1950’s-era porcelain enamel panels as a primary cladding treatment. These panels are blue-green in color and extend from the bulkhead up to a cornice just below the second story windows across the entire front. The enamel panels also extend into the recessed entry of the hotel doorway. Above the hotel entrance is a cantilevered metal awning. Aligned horizontally across the top of the awning are small neon signs identifying the hotel. Above the awning a large vertically aligned neon sign is anchored to the façade. The window opening for the hotel lobby area to the right of the entry is currently covered by plywood. Two storefront entries on the primary facade are characterized by plate glass windows flanking the recessed entry doors, with the northernmost storefront enclosed by a metal gate. Some original marble tile flooring still remains in the recessed entries of the two retail spaces. The upper stories of the primary east façade are characterized by the vertically aligned windows in five bays, topped by a projecting galvanized iron cornice which is supported by six scroll brackets. The five bays are further defined by the placement of the brackets. Topping each bay, are ornamental cast plaster tiles. The outermost ornamental tiles are shaped like quatrefoils, while those in the middle bays are modified rectangles. A shallow stringcourse projection defines the lower boundary of this parapet area. The windows are below this stringcourse. The outermost bays contain typical one-over-one double-hung wood sash windows with slightly projecting cast stone sills. The windows in the three middle bays are outlined by a cast stone surround topped off by a small scroll-like element. The window openings in these middle bays are all paired. The individual sashes are slightly narrower than those in the outer bays. The cast stone window sills and heads create the frames of spandrel panels between each of the sixth through third stories. The spandrels are characterized by varied brick relief ornamentation with diamond patterns. There have been no major structural changes or additions to the building, but the first-story facade and hotel lobby interior were dramatically altered in 1950. None of the original storefront decorative features indicated in original plans or visible in historic photos remain. The remodel included extensive interior upgrades and all new finishes and details. Only a few panels of original marble wainscot remain and none of the marble tile flooring remains in the hotel lobby, although some marble tile flooring is still extant in entries to the retail spaces. There do not appear to be any intact or architecturally significant interior building features, finishes or public spaces.

Detail for 2013 2nd AVE / Parcel ID 1977200885 / Inv #

Status: No - Altered
Classication: District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Stone - Cast Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Domestic - Hotel Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Masonry - Unreinforced No. of Stories:
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce
Integrity
Changes to Interior: Extensive
Changes to Windows: Intact
Storefront: Extensive
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Dodrill-Rezghi, Beth. "Nelson Hotel" Landmark Nomination Form, submitted August 18, 2006.

Photo collection for 2013 2nd AVE / Parcel ID 1977200885 / Inv #


Photo taken Feb 19, 2007
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