Vintage Hotels in Washington

by Lisa Mercer Google

The Great Northern and the Northern Pacific railroad companies played a key role in promoting 19th-century Washington state tourism. Railroad managers designed billboards and brochures urging Americans to "See America First," and the Northern Pacific Railroad Company helped develop and market Mount Rainier Park. The establishment of Washington state as a desirable and accessible tourist destination necessitated the building of grand-scale hotels. Washington state history lives within the walls of these vintage dwellings.

A Long Beach Coastal Retreat

In the late 19th century, Long Beach Peninsula, located between the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean, was a coastal retreat for visitors from Portland, Oregon. Charles Beaver established the Shelburne Inn in 1896. Visitors traveled up the Columbia River to Astoria on a stern-wheeler, and took a ferry to Megler, where they caught the narrow-gauge Clamshell Railroad to Long Beach Peninsula. Shelburne Station was one of the railroad stops. American and French antiques grace the rooms of the Shelburne Inn, which feature four-poster canopy beds, French doors and wicker seating areas. Hosts greet guests with freshly baked cookies and serve a full gourmet breakfast in the morning.

A Castle in Port Townsend

In April 1851, Port Townsend’s first settlers predicted that it would be the largest and most prosperous harbor on the west coast, and called their new home "The City of Dreams.” These dreams never materialized, but Port Townsend eventually became a well-known seaport, whose ornate Victorian homes, forested parks and panoramic harbor views contribute to a dreamlike quality that entices visitors to explore the city in detail. Charles Eisenbeis was Port Townsend's first mayor. He designed a 30-room dwelling, whose design invoked visions of the castles in his native Prussia. The Jesuits bought the castle in 1928 and added an elevator and a large wing housing a chapel and sleeping accommodations. The building became the Manresa Castle Hotel in 1968. Chandeliers hang from the high ceilings of its rooms, which feature lace curtains, ornate wallpaper and beds that appear to be inspired by Victorian romance novels. While you’d expect that lodging fit for royalty is expensive, Manresa Castle has some affordable specials. As of November 2010, midweek rates are $99 and include cocktails, an hors d’oeuvre plate for two and continental breakfast. Weekend packages are available for $269, and include dinner for two at the Castle Key Seafood & Steak Restaurant, champagne and continental breakfast.

A Seattle World's Fair Hotel

The 1909 Seattle World's Fair, called the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, put Seattle on the map as a tourist destination. Hoteliers rushed to create new lodging venues to accommodate visitors, but few hotels received the claim awarded to the Hotel Sorrento. The hotel, with its distinctive Italianate architecture, opened on May 30, 1909, one month before the Alaska-Yukon-Expedition. Many hotels of that era underwent demolition, but the Sorrento Hotel stands proud and preserves it historic integrity. A circular driveway, with a dramatic fountain as its central feature, leads you to the wood-paneled hotel lobby. Despite a modernized room decor, Italian marble bathrooms maintain the hotel's vintage ambiance.

Roaring Twenties Seattle Hotels

On December 6, 1924, the Olympic Hotel, located in downtown Seattle, hosted a gala opening celebration for 2,000 members of Seattle's high society. This grand dame of Seattle hotel has withstood the test of time. Bought and renovated by Fairmont Hotels in 2003, carved wood paneling graces its lobby and crystal chandeliers adorn the cathedral ceilings. The Georgian, located in the hotel, serves a, daily elegant afternoon tea, which features delicacies such as toasted hazelnut scones with honey-whipped Devonshire cream and raspberry preserves and sweet corn relish on grilled zucchini with chipotle and feta mayo. The Mayflower Park Hotel opened three years after the Olympic Hotel and charmed visitors with its ornate terra cotta detailing, stained-glass windows and five-tier crystal chandelier. The 200-year-old grandfather clock and the English Regency lobby breakfront create a typically British ambiance.

Vintage Mt. Rainier Lodging

Mt. Rainier National Park has two vintage hotels. The Paradise Inn, built in 1916, houses a Native American crafts shop and a 14-foot grandfather clock. It has 121 guest rooms and opens from May 20 to October 3. The National Park Inn at Longmire, built in 1917, has 25 rooms and is open year-round. In the late afternoon, guests gather around the lobby fireplace and enjoy fresh scones with wild blackberry jam.

About the Author

My articles have appeared in Aspen Magazine, HerSports, The Professional Skier and other print and online publications. When I'm not teaching fitness or writing, I work at Copper Mountain and at the Breckenridge History Society.