Thursday, July 29, 2010

CryptoWA #17 - That Sinking Feeling

It's amazing what can transpire on a single, odd, triangular piece of ground. Northwest locals may recognize the Sinking Ship parking garage from Seattle's Pioneer Square. If you're in the market for a cursed piece of land, this fixer upper has loads of potential.

Some local historians think this is the site of the original Suquamish fishing camp of Chief Seattle (Sealth). The remaining history includes the town hanging trees and an owner who mysteriously dropped dead. Maybe it's the shape of the lot? Seattle's assortment of founding fathers each started building their own street grids at different angles. When the streets finally met up, odd locations like this one were pretty common.

The Occidental Hotel, just right of center. Copyright the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

For a time, this was the location of the Occidental Hotel. This grand structure with it's mansard rooftop and column-festooned fa├žade presided over the intersection starting in 1884. But it burned to the ground in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, along with most of downtown Seattle.

The Seattle Hotel, or the Hotel Seattle as it was originally known.

The last real building before the garage was the once-elegant Seattle Hotel, which fell into disrepute and fiscal problems not long after it opened its doors. One lucky owner, Henry Kubota, bought the hotel weeks before Pearl Harbor, after which he and his family were hauled off to Washington's internment camps. A dapper gent named Edward Camano Cheasty ran Seattle's best clothing store from a corner of the hotel building, only to watch the city's commerce move further north. Cheasty jumped from a competitor's rooftop in 1914.

The Sinking Ship itself was built by a leasing company who bilked the land owners (still the Kubotas) in 1961. They were promised a lovely office high rise and got the now-infamous off kilter eyesore instead.

Some good did come from all this woe and tragedy. The new parking structure was a shock to most Seattleites. The city rallied around the issue in the early 1960's and created the Pioneer Square Historic District, protecting other old edifices from a similar fate.

That's nice, but I'm still not parking my car there.


P.S. If you want to read more about all the cursed goings on at this location, take a look at Sid Andrews' book, "Boren's Block One: A Sinking Ship." I also recommend Robin Shannon's book "Seattle's Historic Hotels."