(click to enlarge photos)
What are now the Villa Apartments were first lifted above the busy intersection of Boren Avenue and Pike Street in 1909 for its then principal tenant, the Hotel Reynolds. That year, a Seattle Times classified promised, “Everything new and up-to-date in every respect. Rooms single or en suite, with private baths, electric lights and gas, rates reasonable.”
In addition to the hotel lobby and its namesake café, the storefronts facing Pike included, far left, a Singer Sewing Machine outlet on the corner with Boren, and on the far right at the alley, a purveyor of Paulhamus Pure Milk promised a “system of rigid cleanliness” beginning with the timely chilling of milk to fifty degrees at the dairy. Next door was the Auction House, and next to Singer was the North Western Quick Shoe Repair Shop, which proposed to fix yours while you wait. The classical entrance at the center of the Pike Street façade supported a tile frieze inscribed with the building name. Fortunately, ‘Lyre Building’ was written there and not ‘Hotel Reynolds,’ for the hotel soon moved out and on.
By 1910 Pike Street was developing into “Auto Row.” That summer the Avondale Hotel moved in and stayed until well into the Great Depression of the 1930s, when rooms rented from $2.50 to $3.00 a week. As late as 1958 rooms could be had for $7.00 a week, and for a dollar more, the by-then-renamed Villa Hotel offered room service. In 1962, taking advantage of Seattle’s Worlds Fair real estate opportunities, the Villa’s rates may well have been inflated for the six-month run of Century 21. After the fair, the hotel became an apartment house, and it is as the Villa Apartments that it survives.
I thought it possible that the architect for this sturdy survivor was Walter Willcox. In 1910 the Hotel Reynolds took possession of the new Willcox-designed Crouley Building on Fourth Avenue, one block north of Yesler Way. Above the sidewalk, the hotel recycled the illuminated sign seen here on Pike. I also noticed that above the windows of both the Lyre and Crouley buildings are similar cream-colored tile keystones that stand out like bakers’ caps. I was wrong. Diana James, the author of Shared Walls, a history of Seattle apartments, nominated William P. White, a prolific designer of built apartments here between about 1902 and 1917. James then discovered that her “hunch” was supported by Michael House, State Architectural Historian, whose on-line essay on White’s career includes the Villa Apartments among his many accomplishments. Thanks again to Diana James.
Anything to add, Paul? Yes Jean and again with Ron Edge’s help. Ron has found six neighborhood links and placed six photographs at the bottom to introduce them. As is our custom, they are often rich with allusions of many sorts, and as is also our way some of these may be have been used in other contexts. We continue to embrace my mother’s lesson learned from her in the late 1940s when she served a term as President of the Spokane Women’s Club, which was a few blocks from our home (actually, the church’s home: a parsonage) on 9th Avenue, one of the many verdant avenues on Spokane’s shaded but rarely shady South Hill. Mom – Cherry was her nickname – advised in all caps, “Repetition is the Mother of All Learning.” To some readers all six of these links will be familiar for they were all “top features” here within the last three years. The Plymouth Pillars printed next are, we hope and expect, treated in one of the six. They stand at the northwest corner of Boren and Pike, and so directly across Boren from our hotel. Following the pillars is a shot I snapped with with the popular and fast emulsion Tri-X 35mm film in the early 1970s. It looks south up Boren across Pike.