The architect who built the Hotel Main was arrested because plans for the three-story structure included walls of ‘insufficient thickness.’ The architect’s client was an early Seattle mover and shaker, John Corgiat.

Share story

THE TOWER THAT seems to rise from the Hotel Main in our “then” photo is not part of the hotel. Rather, the Italianate tower is next door, atop Firehouse No. 10. It was used to connote the firemen’s high calling to smoke out hot spots in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, and as a place to dry hoses.

The hotel was designed in 1900 by architect R.L. Robertson. The firehouse with its tower rose above the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street three years later. The station was originally built to two stories — plus the tower — but a third floor was added in 1912 for the department’s new fire-alarm office.

In 1900, Robertson was fresh from completing the nearby Hambach Co.’s similarly sized business block (now the parking lot on First Avenue South, one lot south of Main Street). Early in the summer of 1900, he submitted plans for this three-story brick hotel, but somehow with walls of “insufficient thickness.” It was W.N.G. Place, a city building inspector with a fitting name, who spotted Robertson’s code-cutting trim and arrested him. Perhaps John Corgiat, the architect’s client, paid the fine as part of the $9,500 it took to complete his namesake building. Once expanded to code, the walls soon reached their decorative cornice, where, centered above the Main Street facade, Corgiat’s name and the date, 1900, could be easily read from the street.

Corgiat arrived in Seattle from California before the Great Fire of 1889, to which he lost his restaurant, the Louvre, Seattle’s first Italian-French eatery. The garrulous Corgiat founded Italian Lodge No. 1 of Seattle. His 1935 obituary described him as “much in demand as a public speaker.” The obit for the 78-year-old Italian immigrant also shared the detail that he had sold 40 acres near Green Lake to Seattle’s founders, the Dennys.

Sometimes, Gorgiat could turn bellicose. After the Great Fire, he helped form a vigilante committee to protect Seattle from the expected infusion onto its ruins of opportunist pickers and “bad egg bums.” While paying and collecting his accounts, Corgiat had the habit of walking the streets of the business district with a bag of cash in one hand and a revolver in the other.

Corgiat’s name held to the top of his business block until it was severely rattled by the earthquake of April 13, 1949. The removal of the cornice was then ordered by one of building inspector Place’s many successors.

Through the Hotel Main’s years as a hostelry, its tenants were largely fixed-income, single-room occupants. One of these, John E. Clark, was a victim of the ’49 quake. Clark, a napping tenant, was awakened when part of the Hotel Main’s roof fell on him, injuring his head. The tenants of the two sidewalk storefronts to either side of the hotel’s keyhole front door included the Millionair Club in the late 1920s, and John Danz, Seattle’s long-lived motion-picture scion who started as a clothier and haberdasher.

Are the bricks stacked on the sidewalk, on the right, in front of The Loop Saloon, headed for Firehouse No. 10’s 1912 third-floor addition? A circa 1911 date would be, we figure, about right.