Hotel Penobscot, 1888-1911


Let’s continue with more about Snohomish’s great fire of 1911 that was described last month. Specifically, let’s remember the town’s, even Washington Territory’s greatest loss, the Penobscot Hotel.

Lumberman, financier and politician Hyrcanus Blackman built the stately structure on First Street, just around the corner from his home at 118 Avenue B, now the Blackman House Museum. He had to demolish a popular roller skating rink to make room for the hotel and an adjacent building on the corner of Avenue B and First. It seems the lumber was sold to the Catholic church for its building at the corner of Avenue B and Third. Both projects shared the same builder, A. H. Eddy.

The opening of the hotel was trumpeted in the May 5, 1888 issue of The Eye as One of the Finest Hotels in the Territory. The hotel is three stories high, 100 feet long and has frontage of 40 feet on First Street, and contains 43 commodious and well ventilated sleeping apartments. (That seems also to be describing an air circulation issue with the existing hotels.)

The kitchen 20 x 30, supplied with a Montague French range and very conveniently arranged, occupies the rear with the laundry and store room. The dinning room could accommodate 80 guests. Across the central hallway was a large sample room for commercial travelers.

Like a movie scene, my imagination is going wide screen showing the salesmen scrambling to gather up their product samples in the room full of thick smoke and suffocating heat. The Snohomish County Tribune (June 2, 1911), did report that many hotel customers lost their baggage to the fire.*

The parlor was on the second floor – a fine view of the river and valley, with Mt. Rainier in the distance, is obtained, the delightfully archaic description continues. The wainscoting of the corridors, stairways, office, reading, bar and dinning rooms is of curly maple which under a hard oil finish adds to them a rich appearance. The writer finally gives up: It is difficult to give an adequate description of the office counter and bar.

The Tribune reported that Blackman intended to rebuild the hotel, but his reason for not doing so is lost to history. All that remains of this optimistic era is the inlaid tile work in the threshold at 1112 First Street reading simply: “Penobscot.”

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*Click images for large views of street maps showing businesses affected by the fire.
(Thanks to David Dilgard)

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, June 15, 2011.

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