The hotel at the corner of Pike and Post Alley was built in 1902-03 and still stands, with many changes.
OF THE ROUGHLY 150,000 citizens living in Seattle in 1907, nine answered to the last name of Olds, and six of those lived in the Hotel Leland. And surely all of them knew by heart the 1905 pop hit “In My Merry Oldsmobile.” (My dad taught it to me in the 1940s.)
Here stands the Hotel Leland at the northwest corner of Pike Street and Post Alley, circa 1904. There was then, as yet, neither a Pike Place nor a Public Market, nor any intimation of either. The alley-wide arterial on the right is not a Place but Post Alley. The building of Pike Place, from this intersection to the foot of Virginia Street at Western Avenue, came suddenly, as did the founding of its namesake public market.
Pike Place was cut through in 1906-07 on the incentive of activist engineers and not by budget-conscious homemakers conspiring with truck-gardeners to exchange cash for produce in a public place. They were working around the wholesale grocers’ gouging on Western Avenue. It was the transportation planners at City Hall who successfully connived to cut through the neighborhood. In this public work of creating the eccentric Pike Place, they completed City Engineer Reginald Thomson’s Route No. 15, an arterial from northwest Seattle directed into the city’s new retail center to the sides of Pike Street.
Perhaps we would be right to imagine that the suited man with the watch chain standing, and perhaps posing, at the Leland’s front door is its owner, Gamaliel T. Olds. The helpful Kate Krafft, one of Seattle’s most effective activists for historic preservation, dates the construction of the Hotel Leland to 1902-03. In the Aug. 11, 1907, classifieds for The Seattle Times — a mere week before Pike Place Market’s grand opening — the Olds hotel was offered for sale and described as a “Lodging House, eighteen rooms; good furniture, good location.”
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It was the Goodwin brothers, the Market neighborhood’s first spirited developers, who purchased the hotel while keeping one of the Oldses on as its manager. Surprisingly, the democratically stressful part of the Market’s popularity soon upset M. Olds. The Times, on Nov. 10, 1907, reported that he had complained that the police should “do something to prevent Socialists from attempting to hold street meetings on Pike Place. … He complains particularly about the crowds, which he says congregate in front of his hotel much to his annoyance.” Now after Pike Place Market’s first 111 years of clamoring activism, M. Olds’ complaining comes across as partially prescient.