From Gold Rush bankers to a rush of Cubs fans

Pioneer Square gets another new hotel in a very old building, this time the Alaska Building at Second and Cherry.
Pioneer Square gets another new hotel in a very old building, this time the Alaska Building at Second and Cherry.

The Pioneer Square area got a welcome boost in early June with the opening of a new hotel in the historic Alaska Building at 612 Second Ave. — the second hotel in the past few years to open in a restored building in the area.

The Courtyard by Marriott Hotel opened June 7 after a three-year restoration of the Alaska Building, Seattle'ꀙs first steel-framed structure. Built in 1904, the building was originally a bank serving the Klondike gold rush.

Now it'ꀙs lodging for visitors such as those on Tuesday and Wednesday (June 22-23) night, when the hotel was nearly sold out with, among others, Chicago Cubs fans in town for an infrequent series against the Mariners. Gerry Lamontagne, general manager of the hotel, said business travelers, tourists, sports attractions, and the Marriott awards program (one of the largest with 33 million members) are the main drivers of the hotel'ꀙs business.

Pioneer Square is gaining a reputation for hotels in historic buildings. In early 2008, the Arctic Club Hotel Seattle opened in the Arctic Building at 700 Third Ave. The hotel is affiliated with Summit Hotels & Resorts, described as a 'ꀜselect group of properties characterized by individual design and welcoming service.'ꀝ Juno, the restaurant off the lobby of the Arctic Hotel, has become a favorite among Pioneer Square workers.

The hotels provide the Pioneer Square area with nightly foot traffic that will help keep the area vibrant and alive. The area recently was mourning the loss of the Elliott Bay Book Company, but hotels such as the Arctic and the Courtyard by Marriott can help reverse that trend.

A quick tour of the hotel led by Lamontagne shows nice attention to detail and an attempt to keep as much of the old building as possible. Original marble and the intricate, ornate ceilings of the turn-of-the-century building were retained as much as possible. A ballroom with 16-foot-high ceilings on the 14th floor looks to my eye to be a great room for smaller gatherings.

One feature not for anyone suffering from vertigo is the original stairway. On the 15th floor, you can stare all the way down the interior staircase to the bottom. There are elevators, of course, with new mechanical systems but the original cars.

Lamontagne said the hotel could attract some group business — small business or organizational meetings (there is 4,600 square feet of meeting space), but he expects most guests during the week to be here on business. 'ꀜWe'ꀙre working with many of the nearby businesses and organizations,'ꀝ he said, pointing out that the many government offices nearby are one of the target audiences.

There are 262 guest rooms plus a restaurant called The Bistro. Rooms are compact but not small. The double queen is sleek and handsome, with a desk, flat-screen TV and the de rigueur Internet connection. There are views on floors 10-15.

One feature the hotel is promoting is light rail to SeaTac — the Pioneer Square station is just a block away on Third Avenue.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Stephen H. Dunphy

Stephen H. Dunphy

Stephen H. Dunphy writes on business and economic issues for Crosscut. He was a business editor and columnist for a number of years at The Seattle Times.