Seattle Now & Then: The Camlin Hotel

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: When it was new in the 1920s, the Camlin Hotel was described as “Seattle’s aristocrat among residential hotels.”
NOW: From its prospect on Ninth Avenue, between Pine and Olive Streets, the Camlin still shows its elegant head on high.
The Camlin lobby ca. 1931 when nearly new.

A 1930 panorama featuring a few of the Camlin’s hostelry neighbors. The Camlin here shines bright (its painted back side) right of center and behind the dark brick of Swedish Baptist Church at the northwest corner of 9th Avenue and Pine Street.

I have been charmed by this landmark since my first visit more than a half-century ago.  It was my oldest brother Ted and sister-in-law Klarese, both now deceased but then recent graduates of the nearly-new University of Washington Medical School, who treated me to a repast served by the Camlin Hotel’s Cloud Room, a “dinner in the sky”.  Although at about the same time, with the ascension of the Space Needle in 1962, the Camlin by comparison was not so

A Seattle Times glossy with Klarise Dorpat on the left.
Ted Dorpat from a Seattle Times glossy.

elevated.   The Cloud Room had by then nourished its reputation for both food and service.  For instance, for two years running, 1953 and 1954, the Cloud Room won awards from the then prestigious magazine Holiday.  The Camlin was one of but seventy-five restaurants on the American Continent selected by the magazine for its Annual Restaurant Award.

A clip from The Times for June 15, 1954.

A feeling for the Camlin’s size still depends upon where you stand.  Go to Ninth Avenue between Pine and Olive Streets and stand in front of the hotel’s entrance at 1619 9th Avenue.  Look up like Jean has done with his “repeat.” The ninety-one-year-old hotel, with its façade of patterned red bricks laced and banded with terra-cotta tile refinements, stands with its enduring charms before a spreading cluster of new nearby high-rises, which seem busy in a competition for a unique design.  From its upper floors the Camlin Hotel is still in unimpeded contact with the Capitol Hill horizon, Lake Union and the several neighborhoods of the North End.

A Murphy Bed adver for the nearly new Camlin in 1927.

More about the hotel and its Murphy comfort and convenience.  [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

When the Camlin first opened in 1926 there was as yet no plush restaurant on the top floor, rather there was a penthouse.  The Cloud Room first ventured on high in 1946. The conversion showed good post-war timing for a city that felt somewhat impoverished by its paucity of plush eateries.  This was especially true when Seattle was compared – as it still constantly is – with San Francisco.  From its elevated beginning, the Cloud Room was famous for special meetings and events, an ideal setting for a “bridge tea”, or the Quarterbacks Club, or a celebrity luncheon in 1948 for author Betty MacDonald and her then new book, The Plague and I.

A Times clip from July 7, 1948. Note that Ivar Haglund’s name has been spelled to better represent how his family and friends pronounced his name at the time or “then still.”  James Stevens, the author best known for his Paul Bunyan stories, was a good fiend of Ivar Haglund.  They got tipped on Ivar’s red wine and/or Steven’s whiskey and sang folk songs together, some of their own composition.

Edmund Campbell and Adolph Linden, locally noteworthy roaring-twenties entrepreneurs who developed the Camlin Hotel, chose the English Renaissance style for their ornate hotel designed by the well-known Portland, Oregon, architect Carl L. Linde.  The ornamentation of the Lind-designed Ambassador Apartments (1922) on 6th Avenue in Portland can be readily compared to the Camlin.

The entrance on 6th Avenue to Architect Carl L. Linde’s Ambassador Apartments (now Condos) in Portland, Oregon.
Alphone Linden, ca. 1929
A Seattle Times clip from August 12, 1936

The hotel’s name (have you figured?) is a neologism made by joining the first syllables in the partners’ last names.  Five years more and the partners would share something nearly as intimate: incarceration in Walla Walla.  By running and juggling the finances of not only the hotel, but also a bank, a network of radio stations and more, their 1920s ambitions eventually landed them behind bars for fraud.  After a few years of “paying their debt” they returned to their families and generally sturdy home lives in the mid-1930s.

WEB EXTRAS

Lots to add, I know, compadres! More will appear this evening… Here are a random few from The Camlin’s storied past. We’ll begin with a handful from the 1984 remodel:

And continue with several shots from the Cloud Room, including a couple from ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’:

And a few more, including the infamous boat in the pool!  One could rent it for the night.

And now, take it away, Ron!

THEN: The scene looks north through a skyline of steeples toward the Cascade neighborhood and Lake Union, ca. 1923.

THEN: A circa 1923 view looks south on Eighth Avenue over Pike Street, at bottom left.

THEN: Built quickly in the winter of 1906-07, the Prince Rupert Hotel faced Boren Avenue from the third lot north of Pike Street. About fifty-five years later it was razed for the I-5 Freeway. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Built in the mid-1880s at 1522 7th Avenue, the Anthony family home was part of a building boom developing this north end neighborhood then into a community of clapboards. Here 70 years later it is the lone survivor. (Photo by Robert O. Shaw)

THEN: As explained in the accompanying story the cut corner in this search-lighted photo of the “first-nighters” lined up for the March 1, 1928 opening of the Seattle Theatre at 9th and Pine was intended. Courtesy Ron Phillips

THEN: With her or his back to the Medical-Dental Building an unidentified photographer took this look northeast through the intersection of 6th and Olive Way about five years after the Olive Way Garage first opened in 1925. (Courtesy, Mark Ambler)

THEN: Swedish Lutheran (Gethsemane) Church’s second sanctuary at the northeast corner of Ninth Avenue and Steward Street circa 1920, photo by Klaes Lindquist. (Courtesy, Swedish Club)

THEN: The row house at the southwest corner of 6th Avenue and Pine Street in its last months, ca. 1922-23. (Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: A motorcycle courier for Bartell Drugs poses before the chain’s Store No. 14, located in the Seaboard Building at the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Pike Street, circa 1929. (Courtesy Bartell Drugs)

THEN: Built in 1888-89 at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Pine Street, the then named Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church marked the southeast corner of Denny Hill. Eventually the lower land to the east of the church (here behind it) would be filled, in part, with hill dirt scraped and eroded from North Seattle lots to the north and west of this corner. (Courtesy, Denny Park Lutheran Church)

THEN: The now century-old Norway Hall at the corner of Boren Avenue and Virginia Street opened in 1915, on May 17, Norwegian Independence Day. (Courtesy, Nordic Heritage Museum)

THEN: This 1939 glimpse east from Ninth Avenue follows Pike Street to the end of the about three-quarter mile straight climb it makes on its run from the Pike Place Market to its first turn on Capitol Hill.

THEN:

THEN: The city’s north end skyline in 1923 looking northwest from the roof of the then new Cambridge Apartments at 9th Avenue and Union Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

9th-&-Union-1937-tax-pix-THEN-mr

THEN: Beginning with the Reynolds, three hotels have taken tenancy in this ornate three-story brick block at the northeast corner of Boren Avenue and Pike Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: The “then” photo looks southeast across Union Street to the old territorial university campus. It was recorded in the Fall of 1907, briefly before the old park-like campus was transformed into a grand commercial property, whose rents still support the running of the University of Washington. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: While visiting Seattle for some promoting, silent film star Wallace Reid shares the sidewalk at 4th and Olive with a borrowed Stutz Bearcat. (Courtesy, Museum of History & Industry)

THEN: Built in 1909-10 on one of First Hill’s steepest slopes, the dark brick Normandie Apartments' three wings, when seen from the sky, resemble a bird in flight. (Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Thanks again and again to Lawton Gowey for another contribution to this feature, this ca. 1917 look into a fresh Denny Regrade and nearly new “office-factory” at 1921 Fifth Avenue. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey.)

THEN: Before this the first shovel of the last of Denny Hill was ceremonially dropped to the conveyor belt at Battery Street, an “initial bite of 30,000 cubic yards of material” was carved from the cliff along the east side of 5th Avenue to make room for both the steam shovel and several moveable belts that extended like fingers across the hill. It was here that they met the elevated and fixed last leg of the conveyor system that ran west on Battery Street to the waterfront. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: Looking north-northeast from a low knoll at the southwest corner of Seneca Street and Seventh Avenue, circa 1916. By 1925, a commercial automobile garage filled the vacant lot in the foreground. [Courtesy, Ron Edge]

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CLICK TO ENLARGE

A TIMES clip from November 7, 1926.

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WE DO NOT KNOW.   Once upon a time we believed that this was a scene from the Cloud Room.  Now we doubt it.  It is too early.  And where are the windows – for that mater where are the clouds?  These walls are dappled with other spirits, signed celebrities we think and there  are almost surely some of the same in the room too, for instance working the microphones on the table.  Does the animated woman on the right come with or chosen for sound effects.  Is she laughing or singing?  Why does she stand when place is crowded with sofas.  To us the room is wonderfully comfortable.  But what room is it and who is using it for what, we ask as happy humanists always with our eyes out for places packed with persons like these.  

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2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Camlin Hotel”

  1. I remember in 1961 going to the Cloud Room on Saturday night. Then the bars had to close at midnight, but not there. I understood that the front desk would warn the bar if the police were coming so drinks could be cleared before the police appeared.

  2. Also the woman singing the risqué songs was memorable. Words like “you bangie, me bangie, too” stick in my mind. Wish I could remember her name.

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