AKA: Washington Hotel #1, Downtown, Seattle, WA

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

Designers: Jennings, A.B., Architect (firm); Arthur Bates Jennings (architect); Albert Wickersham (architect)

Dates: constructed 1888-1903

4 stories

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Downtown, Seattle, WA 98101

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The Denny Hotel was located atop the steep Denny Hill in the northern section of Downtown Seattle. Denny Hill was removed in three stages by hydraulic excavation methods between 1897 and 1930.


Investors hoped that the Denny Hotel would become Seattle's first great hotel, a place where visiting businessmen doing business in town and "respectable families" considering relocation to the city could stay. Due to its location at the top of a steep hill, and the costs of building such a grand edifice, the hotel never realized its backers' dreams of profitability. Begun in 1888, it was finished 15 years later, and remained open for only about three years before its demolition.

Building History

Due to financing problems, the Denny Hotel, begun in 1888, was not completed until 1903. The James A. Moore Investment Company (developer of part of Capitol Hill and builder of Seattle's Moore Hotel and Theatre) bought the long vacant building (empty about 9 years) and finished it in 1903 to have it operate for only 3 years. The Seattle Timesreported on 03/08/1903: "Perhaps the most notable deal of the past week was the final closing on Friday [03/06/1903) of the deal for the purchase of the Denny Hotel. Developer James Alexander Moore (1861-1929) becomes the new owner and it is reported that he paid $275,000 for the property. He proposes to make the Denny a modern family apartment house and says it will be ready for occupancy not later than May 15." (See "Real Estate and Building Review," Seattle Times, 03/08/1903, p. 4.)

When it finally opened in 1903, the renamed Washington Hotel catered to an upscale clientele. Musician and teacher Nellie Cornish (1876-1956), who resided there c. 1905 recalled: "The old Washington Hotel was one of the best in the Northwest; its fine linen and spotless plumbing made me feel that the cultural level of my life had definitely risen. Its tower and turrets crowned Denny Hill. Its large windows and glasses-in veranda had magnificent views of the mountains, Lake Union and the expanse of Puget Sound. ...When I moved to the hotel, the entrance was reached by cable car which transported passengers from the foot of the hill." (See Nellie Cornish, Miss Aunt Nellie: The Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish, [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1964), p. 69.) Indicative of its luxurious atmosphere, an advertisement in the Seattle Mail and Heraldof 01/02/1904, listed the menu for guests in the "most elaborate dining room on the North Pacific Coast" which included a multi-course meal (starting with Russian caviar) and three hours of orchestral accompaniment every evening. A Seattle Times article in 1905 said many guests had thought the Washington Hotel to have been one of the finest. It stated: "Beginning with President Roosevelt, in May 1903, the Washington has received similar expressions from ex-Secretary Moody, Vice-President Fairbanks, Secretary Darling, Baron Rothschild, Richard Mansfield, Adelina Patti, Maxine Elliott, Nat Goodwin, N.W. Harris and many other leading professional and business men." (See "Praises the Washington," Seattle Times, 03/27/1905, p. 4.)

The hotel was still open in 1905, when the architect Augustus Warren Gould stayed here just after he arrived from Boston, MA. (See Seattle, Washington, City Directory, 1905, p. 538.)

Building Notes

In 1901, the Polk's Seattle City Directory indicated that its location was between 2nd and 3rd Avenues and Stewart and Virginia Streets.


Preparations for the Hotel Washington's demolition were occurring in 06/1906. An article in the Seattle Times of 06/24/1906 stated: "The interior of the Hotel Washington is being wrecked by the plumbers and electrical workers as rapidly as possible. The west wing of the big hotel will be ready for demolition within a few weeks." (See "Selection of Exposition Site Suits Majority of Realty Men of the City," Seattle Times, 06/24/1906, p. 40.)

The hotel was destroyed by fire while the Denny Regrade occurred.

PCAD id: 5110