(click to enlarge photos)
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
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Camlin Hotel”
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.
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.