AKA: Felker Hotel, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA

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

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1853, demolished 1889

2 stories

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1st Avenue South and Main Street
Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA

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Southeast corner of 1st Avenue South and Main Street.


This stately hotel run by the innkeeper Mary Ann Conklin, (aka Mother Damnable), served mulitple purposes: as an early hotel for Seattle visitors, an assembly hall for the territorial government and courts and a bordello for residents and marauding loggers, sailors and fisherman. It was the first brothel to operate in the city, predating the San Franciscan John Pinnell's Illaheeby eight years. It operated on land obtained from the Vermont-born physician, David Swinson "Doc" Maynard (1808-1873). Maynard had lived in a growing city, Cleveland, OH, between 1832 and 1850, and had seen how a small settlement could develop into a city. (Due to its favorable condition on the Lake Erie and the Ohio and Erie Canal, Cleveland's population surged from 6,071 in 1840 to 17,034 by 1850.) His neighbors, by and large, were farmers from the Midwest, who were raised in isolated agricultural settings and developed different ethical codes. Maynard was pragmatic about drinking and prostitution, noting that the presence of taverns and brothels were economically important to build frontier settlements.

Building History

Sea Captain Leonard Felker transported this prefabricated building in his ship, the Franklin Adams, around the Cape Horn and erected it on a small parcel purchased from early landowner and physician, David S. "Doc" Maynard (1808-1873), at what is now 1st Avenue S and Jackson Street, then called "Maynard's Point." According to historian Paul Dorpat, Maynard "...sold the captain the block south of Jackson Street and west of First Avenue South for $350 on the growth-promoting condition that a 'substantial building be constructed on the premises within three months.'" (See Paul Dorpat, "Felker House,"Accessed 03/21/2014.) Felker's "house," actually Seattle's first hotel, was a substantial, two-story frame building comprised of milled lumber and Southern pine floors. Interior walls were covered in a civilized skin of lath and plaster. Unlike the crude split-log houses of his neighbors, Felker's hotel had a polished appearance consistent with a residence in New England or more settled environs. Because it had been prefabircated in the East, Dorpat observed that the Felker House was "...first Seattle structure built of finished lumber." (See Dorpat Sherrard Lomont, "King Street Trestle," accessed 03/29/2016.)

Felker hired a PA-born woman, Mary Ann Conklin (1821-1873), as his innkeeper. She was an irascible individual with a violent temper and foul mouth, earning her the sobriquet, "Mother Damnable." (She supposedly could swear in multiple languages.) As the story goes, her husband, Captain David W. "Bull" Conklin, commander of an Alaskan whaling ship, became fed up with her quickly, and supposedly deserted her in Port Townsend c. 1853; she made her way to the hamlet of Seattle and managed to connect with another sailor in Felker. (This account was not corroborated by the reminiscence of an early settler, Dillis B. Ward, published in the Washington Historical Quarterly in 1915. It indicated that Conklin and his wife were residents of Seattle in 1859. He said: "David W. Conklin and wife, Mrs. Conklin kept the hotel on the southeast corner of Main Street and old Commercial Street, now First Avenue South." See Dillis B. Ward, "From Salem, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, in 1859," Washington Historical Quarterly, vol. VI, no. 2, 04/1915, p. 105. Additionally, the 1860 US Census for Seattle listed a "D.W. Conklin" as a millwright. He was not living with a Mary Conklin, however, and had a different wife, Catherine, in 1879.) According to the sometimes sensational historian Bill Spiedel, she may have been a madame, who allegedly operated a brothel in the hotel's rear portion. She operated the inn (and perhaps the bordello) until her death in 1873.

Building Notes

The two-story Felker House was a timber-framed, cross-gabled rooming house notable for its two-floor porch on its front facade. The house's front portion had a gable roof whose main dimension was parallel to the long main porch. Another section projecting back had was covered by a perpendicular gable. The building had a simple appearance, influenced by Greek Revival architecture popular in the early 19th century.


The Felker House burned in the Great Seattle Fire of 06/06/1889.

PCAD id: 19134