When it was built, the wonderful, state-of-the-art Waldorf was the largest apartment complex in Seattle. It wasn’t quite as grand when it was imploded in 1999.
THE IMPRESSIVE SPEED with which the Hotel Waldorf was topped off at seven stories was explained in The Seattle Times on Aug. 19, 1906: “The building has been put up in record time … for the past few weeks work has been carried on day and night. The carpenters who have prepared the framework for the concrete have worked in the daytime, and the concrete men have done their part at night by electric light. When completed, the Waldorf will be the largest apartment house in the city and the equal in all respects of any similar building in the country. It will be ready for occupancy about Nov. 1.”
The Waldorf Building Co. started soliciting reservations for its units late in October. The units had much to offer, including “first-class janitor service,” night-and-day elevator service and a laundry for tenants in the basement. The promotions warned: “Satisfactory references required.” Through the fall of 1906, the company almost routinely announced delays, until a few days before Christmas, when it reported that the Waldorf was, at last, “ready for occupancy.” The formal opening, however, waited until the following March 27.
Diana James, author of “Shared Walls,” a history of early Seattle apartment buildings, pulled from her research a novelty connected with the Waldorf construction.
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“Each of the apartments is to be equipped with a peculiar device, an idea of Mr. Ryan (the Waldorf’s architect), for house cleaning, so arranged that any occupant of any apartment, by the simple attachment of a short rubber hose, can clean the apartment with compressed air in a few minutes’ time, driving all dust to the basement and eliminating the necessity of sweeping. This is a feature that so far as known has never been installed in any other similar building ever constructed.”
Perhaps because of its bay windows, I’d always imagined that the Waldorf was an oversized frame construction. I did not look closely. Rather it was not wood but concrete and, the attentive press was pleased to report, “absolutely fireproof.” The International Fireproof Construction Company was the builder. U. Grant Fay, superintendent of construction, was, like the hotel’s status-conscious name, yet another gift from New York City. The Times announced his spring 1906 arrival while piling on more prestige with news that Fay had been “superintendent of construction of the Hotel St. Regis of New York City, said to be the finest hotel in the world.”
In the early stages of construction, the Waldorf was wrapped in class by the local media. As an example, on Feb. 25, 1906, The Seattle Times included an architect’s sketch of the Waldorf among five illustrations for a full-page feature titled, “Seattle, The Beautiful Metropolis.”