The stylish building on Ninth Avenue was once described as ‘Seattle’s aristocrat among residential hotels.’
I HAVE BEEN charmed by this landmark since my first visit more than a half-century ago. My oldest brother, Ted, and his wife, Klarese, both now deceased but then recent graduates of the nearly new University of Washington Medical School, treated me to a repast served by the Camlin Hotel’s Cloud Room, a “dinner in the sky.”
At about the same time, with the ascension of the Space Needle in 1962, the Camlin by comparison was not so elevated. The Cloud Room had by then nourished its reputation for both food and service. For instance, for two years running, 1953 and 1954, the Cloud Room won awards from the prestigious magazine Holiday. The Camlin was one of 75 U.S. restaurants selected for its Annual Restaurant Award.
A feeling for the Camlin’s size still depends upon where you stand. Go to Ninth Avenue between Pine and Olive streets, and look up from in front of the hotel’s entrance. The 91-year-old hotel, with its facade of patterned red bricks laced and banded with terra-cotta tile refinements, stands with its enduring charms before a spreading cluster of new high-rises.
When the Camlin opened in 1926, there was no plush restaurant on the top floor, just a penthouse. The Cloud Room first ventured on high in 1947. The conversion showed good postwar timing for a city that felt somewhat impoverished by its paucity of plush eateries. This was especially true when Seattle was compared with San Francisco. From its elevated beginning, the Cloud Room was famous for special meetings and events, an ideal setting for a “bridge tea,” or the Quarterbacks Club or a celebrity luncheon in 1948 for author Betty MacDonald and her new book, “The Plague and I.”
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Edmund Campbell and Adolph Linden, both locally noteworthy Roaring ’20s entrepreneurs, developed the Camlin Hotel. For its design, they chose well-known Oregon architect Carl L. Linde, whose 1922 landmark Ambassador Apartments on Portland’s Sixth Avenue can readily be compared to the Camlin.
The hotel’s name (have you figured?) is a neologism made by joining the first syllables in the partners’ last names. Five years more, and the partners would share something nearly as intimate: incarceration in Walla Walla. By running and juggling the finances of not only the hotel, but also a bank, a network of radio stations and more, their 1920s ambitions eventually landed them behind bars for fraud. After a few years in prison, they returned to their families and generally sturdy home lives in the mid-1930s.