2009-02-22 Seattle Now & Then: Occidental's Tourist Hotel

THEN: The Lebanon aka Jesse George building at Occidental and Main opened with the Occidental Hotel in 1891.  Subsequently the hotel’s name was changed first to the Touraine and then to the Tourist.  The tower could be seen easily from the railroad stations.   It kept the name Tourist until replaced in 1960 with a parking lot.  (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
THEN: The Lebanon aka Jesse George building at Occidental and Main opened with the Occidental Hotel in 1891. Subsequently the hotel’s name was changed first to the Touraine and then to the Tourist. The tower could be seen easily from the railroad stations. It kept the name Tourist until replaced in 1960 with a parking lot. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
NOW: Jean Sherrard moved in a few feet closer to the northeast corner of Main and Occidental to better show the cars parked where once the landmark hotel sat and also the stylish posts that have closed Occidental between Main and Washington since neighborhood architects Jones and Jones developed Occidental Park for the city in the early 1970s.
NOW: Jean Sherrard moved in a few feet closer to the northeast corner of Main and Occidental to better show the cars parked where once the landmark hotel sat and also the stylish posts that have closed Occidental between Main and Washington since neighborhood architects Jones and Jones developed Occidental Park for the city in the early 1970s.

With six red brick stories and a corner tower to lend it some picturesque power, architect Elmer Fisher’s creation at the northeast corner of Occidental Avenue and Main Street was but one of the some fifty buildings he designed and built in 1889 and 1890.   More than any other architect, Fisher determined what Seattle would look like after its “Great Fire” of 1889, in part because he was already in Seattle getting work before the business district was destroyed.  And that – any honest professional will whisper – was great “architect’s luck.”

Now I ask readers to think or look back to last week’s presentation of one of the best examples of the old pre-fire Seattle: the Pacific Block ca. 1886.  It was kitty-corner to this Occidental Hotel – at the southwest corner here at Main and Occidental. A likely date for this Frank LaRoche study of the Occidental Hotel, AKA Lebanon Building, is only five years later.  The hotel was built on the fire’s ashes and completed in 1891.  Here its namesake bar at the corner is as not yet marked with its own sign.  It also seems that windows are still being installed on the Main Street façade, far right.

When new, the Lebanon Building was also named for Jesse George, a German-American investment banker who was one of its owners.  Much earlier Jesse met his wife Cassandra at Santiam Academy in Lebanon, Oregon, and hence the name.  The couple had five children and a home at 4th and Cherry on a lot that is now part of city hall.  With Jesse’s death in 1895, Cassandra moved temporarily back to Oregon where she became superintendent of the Portland Women’s Union.  Then in 1902 she returned to Seattle and opened a rooming house for working girls in her old home at 411 Cherry.

The 13-year-old Cassandra came west on the Oregon Trail in 1853 and arrived in the Willamette Valley with one sister, one horse, one cow and two teenage boys. The sisters’ mother died before they left and their father along the way.

7 thoughts on “2009-02-22 Seattle Now & Then: Occidental's Tourist Hotel”

  1. Acckk no way to edit my comment? I am thinking there was an Occidental Hotel on First and Yesler that was torn down in 1972 or 1973.

  2. There was an Olympic Hotel at the southeast corner of First and Yesler, but much of it fell in on it own in the early 1970s and the rest was finished with a wrecking ball in the late 1970s. We featured this in these pages and you will find it under the list of these Seattle Now and Thens we are putting up. And you will find there pixs of its destruction. It was published on 12/14/2008 and titled by Jean “Seattle’s Olympic Block.”
    The name Occidential Hotel has moved about. Beginning in the mid 1860s there was a famed and framed Occidental Hotel in the pie-shaped block bordered by Yesler Way, James and Second Ave. It was rebuilt with light-colored brick and tiles and decorative caste-iron in the early 1880s, but all that and much else was destroyed in the “Great Fire” of 1889. Following the fire it was rebuilt in red brick and bigger. There was more office room in the new building but it also eventually added the Seattle Hotel. This survived until 1961 when it was razed and replaced with what is popularly and descriptively called the “Sinking Ship Garage.” The builders of this concrete wedge, which never does what it seems to promise – that is sink below the sidewalk – assured the city’s first cadre of preservationist, which had organized in an attempt to save the hotel, that their new garage would sensitively repeat the essential forms of the neighborhood. They were referring to the “basket-handle” shaped windows in, for instance, the Pioneer Building across James Street. And the developers did not lie. If you look at the iron tubing atop the garage you will see that it has bent into a row of arches. So the developers won that first fight against the preservationists, but the zest of defending the historic neighborhood eventually – in ten years more – turned the entire Pioneer Square neighborhood into a historic district with restrictions on changes that might do injury to its historic pose and repose. We have written/illustrated a few now-then’s on that corner in the distant past and will surely eventually get one or two or three of them up on this blog. Thanks for writing. By the way any chance you can show me that 8mm film? Paul

  3. Pretty sure I shot the footage in ’72 and you are right about it being the Olympic hotel. Folke Nyberg was trying to save the building I believe. Come down to Fremont for a spot of tea sometime soon. I will fire up the little jumpy projector. We can talk about hats.

  4. Thanks for this background on the Tourist!

    I ran into it doing research about the AYPE. In 1907, The Tourist was half owned by Arthur T. Van de Vanter – he’s described in HistoryLink’s article on The Meadows. He actually died in 1907, though, and left half ownership to his widow. She remarried in 1908, only five months later, to Patrick Francis Purcell, owner of Purcell Safe Company. In one of the recently digitized AYPE guide books at SPL, there’s a page filled with two ads, one for The Tourist and one for Purcell Safe Company.

    “Frank” Purcell hosted a luncheon at his Allentown home (which I’m trying to track down the location) for a group of visiting businessmen from Chicago. I’m writing about them for MOHAI’s Discovering AYPE program.

    Sorry for all the factoids, just wanted to provide the ownership info that I found.

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