This Week Then: Checking in With Washington's Historic Hotels

Plus: A look at Seattle's protest history
| Updated: May 2, 2019

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Checking In

May is Historic Preservation Month, and this week HistoryLink looks at two of Washington's grand hotels that have been lovingly restored and preserved for use by future generations. The first is Spokane's Davenport Hotel, which was designed by prominent architect Kirtland Cutter. Thousands attended the Davenport's gala opening-night festivities in 1914, including members of Montana's Blackfeet tribe -- guests of the hotel who stayed in tepees they pitched on the roof. 

Over the years, the Davenport welcomed as guests presidents and movie stars, along with many other notable visitors, including Charles Lindbergh and Queen Marie of Romania. In 1985 the Davenport was closed and under threat of demolition, but new owners in 2000 launched a $36-million restoration project that by 2002 had returned the hotel to its former elegance.

A similar tale of renewal is shared by the Olympic Hotel, which had its own posh opening in Seattle in 1924. Built on the site of the old Territorial University, the hotel has played host to royalty, several U.S. presidents, various celebrities, countless conventions, and even space travelers.

By the 1970s the beloved hotel was showing its age and facing demolition. A public outcry led to a two-year renovation by the Four Seasons Hotels group that restored its luster. Last year the city's "Grande Dame" -- now known as the Fairmont Olympic Hotel -- was rated the best hotel in Seattle by U.S. News & World Report, and it continues to be a local favorite for fine dining, deluxe accommodations and hosting large gatherings.

Marching On

Over the years, the first week of May has seen its share of pro- and anti-war sentiment, beginning on May 1, 1898, with the successful mustering of Washington soldiers for the Spanish-American War. On May 2, 1922, six women anti-war protesters disrupted an ROTC parade at the University of Washington. Exactly two decades later, on May 2, 1942, a somber gathering was held in downtown Seattle to dedicate Victory Square, a civic focal point for the city's World War II homefront.

During the first week of May 1970, protests erupted in Seattle against the U.S. invasion of  Cambodia. On May 5, after four Kent State students were killed by National Guardsmen, more than a thousand protesters marched onto Interstate 5, blocking all southbound lanes. Things turned ugly two days later when plainclothes officers of the Seattle Police Tactical Squad prowled the University District, beating up anyone they suspected of being "radical" or "anti-American." According to at least one eyewitness, the attacks were never seriously investigated by either the media or the city.


On the Go

On May 5, 1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition headed home from the future state of Washington after spending their winter in the Northwest. And on May 6, 1896, a different cross-country trek got its start when Helga Estby and her daughter Clara began walking from Spokane County to New York City in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to raise money to save their farm from foreclosure.

Time to Grow

Seattle doubled in size with the annexation of five nearby communities on May 3, 1891. Exactly 16 years later, the city expanded again with the annexation of South Park and Columbia City on May 3, 1907.

Say Hello

Four cities are marking anniversaries this week -- Everett, which got its start on May 4, 1893Chelan, whose male residents voted to incorporate on May 7, 1902; Everson, which incorporated on May 4, 1929; and Mukilteo, which became a city on May 8, 1947.

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