WHAT ARE now the Villa Apartments were first built at the busy intersection of Boren Avenue and Pike Street in 1909 for the 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 cafe, 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.” 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 facade supported a tile frieze inscribed with the building name. Fortunately, “Lyre Building” was written there and not “Hotel Reynolds” because the hotel soon moved out.
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 a week. As late as 1958 rooms could be had for $7 a week and, for a dollar more, the renamed Villa Hotel offered room service. After the 1962 World’s Fair, the hotel became an apartment house, and it survives as the Villa Apartments.
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.
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Diana James, author of “Shared Walls,” a history of Seattle apartments, guessed William P. White, a prolific designer of apartments here between about 1902 and 1917. James discovered that her hunch was supported by Michael House, state architectural historian, whose online essay on White’s career mentions the Villa Apartments among his many accomplishments.
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