AKA: Chelsea Apartments, Queen Anne, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings -public accommodations - hotels

Designers: Thomas, Harlan C., Architect (firm); Irving Harlan Thomas (architect)

Dates: constructed 1906-1907

4 stories

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620 West Olympic Place
Queen Anne, Seattle, WA 98119-3660

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Mechanical engineer Charles Russell Collins, Sr. (born c. 1863 in PA, died 08/22/1937 in Seattle, WA), and his wife, Anna Irwin Chapin (born c. 1864 in PA, died 07/04/1945 in Seattle), commissioned architect Harlan Thomas (1870-1953) to design the Chelsea Hotel in 1906-1907. Collins migrated to Seattle in 1896 to become General Manager of the Seattle Gas and Electric Company, but soon created his own consulting practice, specializing in machinery delivering natural gas. First living at 1316 Marion Street, the couple resided at the hotel after its completion with their three children, Elma C. Collins (born c. 1893 in PA), Charles Russell, Jr. (born c. 1897 in Seattle) and William Chapin (born c. 1901 in Seattle); they had left it by 1920, when they lived in a residence at 324 Harvard Avenue North in the city's Capitol Hill Neighborhood. A residential hotel of this period like the Chelsea catered to an upper-middle-class clientele that could stay for days or years. It was converted to rental apartments in 1917. The Chelsea was one of two large commissions for hotels that Thomas received soon after arriving in Seattle, WA, in 1906. (The other was the still extant Sorrento Hotel.) A number of residential hotels--located strategically on main trolley routes--were erected in Seattle in anticipation of a tourist influx during the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, for which Collins served as the Treasurer. (The Chelsea was designed to be convenient to the Kinnear Park street car line.) Its first Manager, George F. Stean, previously worked in New York, NY. By 1978, the hotel had become an apartment building, with Milton and Lahoma Norton resident managers.

Set on a steep slope, on West Olympic Place in the Queen Anne Neighborhood of Seattle, the Chelsea Hotel was a four-story brick building, built in a U-shape about an entry courtyard. It contained just over 100 rooms originally. The hotel featured a variety of room floor plans, varying in size from one room to five. On the front facade, upper floor rooms had oriel windows. Three brick arches graced the entry to the courtyard; a panel over the central arch contained the word "Chelsea." Public areas on the first floor had boxed beams and painted wainscoting. Architectural historian Lawrence Kreisman has observed of the Chelsea: "Architect Harlan Thomas had traveled extensively throughout Italy and was an admirer of Italian styles. His almost baroque treatment of the stairway and balustrades of the Chelsea are evidence of this interest, as are his designs for the Sorrento Hotel, Amalfi Apartments, and Chamber of Commerce in Seattle. A roof garden with wooden pergola, palm trees, and arbors (no longer extant) overlooked 'one of the most magnificent views to be found upon the entire Pacific Coast.'" (See Lawrence Kreisman, Historic Preservation in Seattle, [Seattle, WA: Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority, 1985], p. 24.) A rooftop sitting area would be viable in Seattle for only three-four months of the year, indicating how enamored Thomas was of Italian outdoor living spaces. An early publicity brochure said of the Chelsea: "Set like a chateau overlooking a vast estate, the Chelsea commands a sweeping panorama that embraces all points of the compass. To the west lies Puget Sound, ever glorious, with its Italian sunsets, its islands, its wealth of shipping bound to and from all parts of the world...." This brochure contained a general description of the new apartment house: "The building is a perfect example of the architecture of the English Rennaissance [sic] period, with exquisite purity of outline and design. In addition to the usual fireproof precautions the building is equipped with the extra safeguards of fire walls and doors by which any incipient danger may be shut off and isolated from the rest of the hotel. Another feature is the double construction of every floor, with air spaces between, thus making them sound-proof and preventing any disturbance to guests from that source. As a further protection from annoyance of any kind, special precautions have been taken to make impossible the presence of any noxious animal life. The kitchen is designed and arranged according to the latest sanitary rules. with double ventilation that does away with all odors that might arise. The dining salon is spacious, beautifully fitted and decorated, with a high ceiling and a wealth of light from the windows that are on all four sides of the room. The floors are of hardwood, making it available for dancing, while the general arrangement is adaptable to musicales, receptions and other social functions." (See George F. Stean, The Chelsea, [Seattle: The Chelsea, 11/1909], n.p.) Between 1913 and about 1917, a Mrs Enegern operated a Montessori school in the building to educate neighborhood children.

Stephen R. Yarnall bought the Chelsea in 1977 for $475,000, and renovated its interior into 55 apartments at an approximate cost of $600,000. Seattle architect Miriam Sutermeister supervised renovations of the Chelsea Hotel in 1977-1978. A brochure of the time indicated the extent of the restoration: "In addition to restoration of the visible areas, all structural problems were corrected and the plumbing, electrical and heating systems were completely replaced." (See "The Chelsea," brochure produced c. 1978 by either the W.M. Management Company, Incorporated, or Miriam Sutermeister. This brochure incorporated some text obtained from a newspaper advertisement, "The Chelsea Seattle's Scenic Hotel," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/21/1909.) At the time of its renovation, the building was entered on the City of Seattle Landmarks List.

Seattle Historic Landmark (1978-10-23): ID n/a

National Register of Historic Places (December 14, 1978): 78002750 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 5270