AKA: Westin Hotel, Downtown, Seattle, WA; Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Incorporated, Westin Hotel, Downtown, Seattle, WA

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

Designers: Graham, John and Company, Architects and Engineers (firm); Hoffman Construction Company (firm); Wright, Howard S., (HSW) Construction Company (firm); David Milton Checkley Sr. (architect); John Graham Jr. (architect); Lee Hawley Hoffman (building contractor); Howard S. Wright (building contractor/developer)

Dates: constructed 1967-1969

34 stories

view all images ( of 4 shown)

1900 5th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101-1204

OpenStreetMap (new tab)
Google Map (new tab)
click to view google map
Google Streetview (new tab)
click to view google map


In the late 1960s, a futuristic, cylindrical hotel, 34-stories tall, rose at the important intersection bounded by Stewart Street on the south, 5th Avenue on the west, 6th Avenue and the diagonal Westlake Avenue. Originally called the "Washington Plaza Hotel," owned by Western International Hotels of Seattle, consisted of one tower between 1969 and 1982, and two after the latter date. These towers stood between a multistory structure, built incrementally, housing meeting rooms, auditoria, restaurants, and parking garage among other amenities. It became the Westin Hotel, which was an abbreviation of “Western International Hotels” originally.

Building History

On 12/28/1966, the Western International Hotels Company and the Aluminum Corporation of America (ALCOA) announced their plans to build a new, large-scale hotel in Seattle's Downtown, the first erected since 1929. To design and build the $18 million high-rise, Edward E. Carlson (1911-1990), President of the Western International Hotels Company (later renamed Westin Hotels), selected two local firms--John Graham and Company and the Howard S. Wright Construction Company--with which he had a record of cooperation. Six years earlier, the active civic booster Carlson partnered with Graham and Wright to build the Seattle Space Needle for the 1962 World's Fair.

Originally, the hotel had only one tower, the 40-floor, 397-foot-tall South Tower, which covered half of the block bounded by 5th Avenue, Westlake Avenue, 6th Avenue, Stewart Street and Virginia Street. Graham located a single cylindrical shaft, 96-feet in diameter, at the point of intersection of Stewart and Westlake. The highrise's round plan enabled each of the hotel's 442 rooms to maximize its window glass area, admitting the best possible views of Elliott Bay, Mount Rainier, and the Cascade and Olympic Mountain Ranges to the east and west. An approximately three-story, windowless section of the building (accommodating meeting rooms and other spaces) connected the Modern, reinforced concrete Washington Plaza to the brick, Tudor Revival Benjamin Franklin Hotel (1929) to the north on 5th Avenue. Ironically, Carlson had started his long business career as a bellhop at the Benjamin Franklin just after it opened. (Executive Vice President of Western International, Lynn Himmelman [1912-2007], was a key figure in the planning for the Washington Plaza; his father, Troy [1888-1969], managed the Benjamin Franklin in 1930.) Topping out of the first tower occurred in 01/1969, and Carlson staged the Washington Plaza's grand opening celebration on 06/29/1969.

Taken together, the new tower and the Benjamin Franklin contained 715 guest rooms and suites, and had 4 restaurants, 3 cocktail lounges and and a supper club. Lee Jenks was its manager c. 1970.

A second, 47-story, 449-foot skyscraper mirroring the first, opened in late 06/1982; to make room for this tower and its base, the Hotel Benjamin Franklin was leveled in 1980. Again, the Howard S. Wright Construction Company served as the building contractor for the ownership group which consisted of Westin Hotels, ALCOA and the local landowner, the Clise Agency. It was also at this time (09/1981) that the Washington Plaza Hotel became renamed the "Westin," reflecting the 01/1981 name change of the parent company, Western International Hotels. (Westin also erected its corporate headquarters across the street from the new tower in 1981, sharing a parking garage with it.) The Westin's two towers had, in 2007, 891 guest rooms located on a rectangular base, containing a swimming pool, banquet and meeting rooms and other spaces. The hotel offered 22 rooms for meetings with a cumulative 39,000 square feet according to its web site in 2012. (See "Rediscover the Westin Seattle,"Accessed 11-02-2012.) Since 1994, the Westin Hotels and Resorts chain has been owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Incorporated.

Building Notes

Construction of the Washington Plaza Hotel required the demolition of the landmark Orpheum Building, designed by the renowned Seattle architect, B. Marcus Priteca (1889-1971). The Orpheum could be seen from a great distance south on 5th Avenue and from the west and east on Stewart Street, and had a giant rooftop advertising sign that highlighted the theatre's location. In the 1920s, the sign read: "Orpheum Vaudeville Photo Plays."

David M. Checkley (d. 09/15/1988), Executive Architect with the firm of John Graham and Company, was involved with the design of the first Washington Plaza tower.

PCAD id: 3222