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Summary for 1216 1st AVE / Parcel ID 1974700170 / Inv #

Historic Name: Diller Hotel Common Name:
Style: Commercial, Queen Anne - Richardsonian Romanesque Neighborhood: Commercial Core
Built By: Year Built: 1889
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
This property is directly associated with the period of reconstruction and commercial redevelopment (1889-1902) that took place during the decade after the 1889 fire, which destroyed 64 blocks of commercial and waterfront industrial buildings. While the reconstructed commercial district remained fixed within five blocks of Yesler Way and First Avenue, substantial commercial construction began to gravitate further north along First and Second Avenues and toward the well-established residential district that survived the fire. By 1900, more than 29 street railway or cable car lines were in operation, many constructed by private entrepreneurs to promote suburban residential real estate holdings. The expeditious development of suburban residential neighborhoods after the turn of the century occurred in tandem with the rapid northern expansion of the commercial district and the gradual absorption of the old residential area by commercial real estate development. None of the older residential properties and very few intact commercial properties dating from this era remain within the downtown commercial core. 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. It was a modest wood-frame structure located near First Avenue and Jackson Street and served as a community gathering place where early King County court sessions and territorial legislative meetings took place. 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 transient residents. By the late 1880s several elegant as well as working men’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; however, by the 1920s the hotel had become a distinct property type. 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), which was located at James Street, Yesler Way and Second Avenue, had evolved as 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 (Washington 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. By the turn of the century, tourist and residential hotels lined the much of First Avenue to Pike Street. Only two extant hotels constructed along First Avenue during this era remain, the Diller Hotel (1889) and the Colonnade Hotel (Gatewood, 1898). Leonard Diller (1839-1901) was born in Ohio and migrated as a young man to the Pacific Northwest. He established a successful mercantile business in Oregon City, Oregon in 1864 before migrating to Tacoma, Washington in 1873. he moved to Seattle in 1876 and became the proprietor of the Sneider Market and later , the Esmond Hotel. In 1885, he bought the Brunswick Hotel at the corner of South Main and Commercial (First Avenue), then one of Seattle’s earliest hostelries. This three-story hotel included 56 rooms and featured one of the first elevators in Seattle. By 1888, Diller was a well-known figure in Seattle business and social circles. After the Brunswick Hotel was destroyed in the 1889 fire, Diller had this building constructed at First Avenue and University Street. Designed by Seattle architect Louis L. Mendel, the new Diller Hotel was completed and open to the public on June 6, 1890 – exactly one year after the fire. It proved to be an unprofitable venture until 1897 when gold was discovered in Alaska and Seattle became a major embarkation point for miners traveling to and from British Columbia and the Yukon. The Diller Hotel became a headquarters for many leading miners, in part due to its easy access to the waterfront piers. Leonard Diller was elected to the Seattle City council in 1898. After his death in 1901, the hotel continued to be operated by the Diller family, by his wife Winifred Diller and then by his Earl Diller, who was also active in the real estate, insurance and finance businesses. The building continues to remain in the ownership of the Diller family. Louis Leonard Mendel (1867-1940) is primarily know for his work with Charles H. Bebb, a thirteen-year partnership that was one of the most prominent practices in Seattle during the early twentieth century. Mendel was a native of Mayen, Germany who immigrated to this country in 1882. [Diller’s parents had emigrated from Germany in 1834.] He was first employed with an architecture firm in Cleveland, Ohio and may have worked briefly in the Chicago offices of Adler and Sullivan before migrating to San Diego c.1886 and then Seattle in c.1889. He is known to have then designed business blocks, hotels, schools and public buildings in Tacoma, Seattle, Port Townsend, Bellingham and Yakima. Due to the economic panic of 1893, he returned to practice in California until c.1899 when he returned to Seattle and began to work with Charles H. Bebb. Important local projects designed by the firm include: University Heights School (1902); Hotel Standler (1900-01, destroyed); Seattle Athletic Club (1903-04, destroyed); Schwabacher Hardware Company warehouse (1903-05); the Walker-Ames House (1906-07); Washington State Building at the A-Y-P (1908-09, destroyed); Frye Hotel (1906-11); Wintonia Hotel (1909) and the Hoge Building (1909-11). The partnership dissolved in early 1914 and later that year Bebb entered into a highly productive partnership with Carl F. Gould. Mendel continued to practice, primarily on his own, and is known to have designed a number of large residences and some commercial buildings, including the subject store building. This historic property is similar to three other 1889-90 era buildings on First Avenue, the nearby Holyoke Building, and the Austin Bell Building and Hull Building in Belltown. Other similar buildings from this era are located within the Pioneer Square Historic District. The Diller Hotel is a partially intact example of a now rare downtown hotel property type from this era. It is a noteworthy example of Romanesque Revival style and was designed by a notable reconstruction era architect, Louis L.Mendel.
Prominently located at the SE corner of First Avenue and University Street, this former 112-room hotel building includes several retail stores and now functions as a partially used apartment/hotel building. It is a four-story brick masonry structure with a concrete foundation measuring 80’x111’ with five structural bays at the University Street and three bays at the First Avenue elevation. It exhibits a two-part commercial block façade composition accentuated by a prominent clipped corner entry and a polygonal bay/corner turret at the NW corner of the building. The building is primarily clad with brick that has been painted and includes distinctive brick and cast stone details that have also been painted. The shaft is the only portion of the building that remains largely intact. The corner bay appears to be clad with wood and sheet metal. The piers between window bays are decorated with corbelled heads and inset vertical designs at each floor level and tall narrow windows are individually set in groups of four (or three) with corresponding recessed sawtooth brick spandrel panels below each window. Original 1/1 double-hung wooden windows appear to remain in place at all of the upper floor levels. The original highly ornate cast stone and metal cornice and brick parapet have been removed including an ornate raised portion of the parapet (at the center of the First Avenue elevation) that noted the building name and construction date. The building shaft and turret are now capped by a flush undecorated concrete parapet. The storefront level at First Avenue has been entirely remodeled and the mezzanine level windows are either covered or eliminated. The University Street elevation appears to be partially intact. The original prominent NW corner entry remains in place and includes a distinctive sandstone arch, however portions of decorative carving at the face of the spring line has been chipped off. There do not appear to be any intact or architecturally significant interior building features, finishes or public spaces; however additional interior investigation is warranted.

Detail for 1216 1st AVE / Parcel ID 1974700170 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick - Common Bond 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: four
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce
Changes to Interior: Extensive
Changes to Plan: Slight
Storefront: Extensive
Changes to Original Cladding: Moderate
Changes to Windows: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects. Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Bagley, Clarence B. History of King County, Washington. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1929, pg. 152.
Sheridan, M. Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Project DEIS, Historic Resources Inventory

Photo collection for 1216 1st AVE / Parcel ID 1974700170 / Inv #

Photo taken May 18, 2006
App v2.0.1.0