Share story

THE BUILDING’S name, Palmer, is either chiseled or cast in stone above the front door. This top-heavy brick pile began its relatively brief life in 1890, with the Ripley Hotel its main tenant. The name of the hostelry was later changed to Hotel York, as we see it here. The book “Shaping Seattle Architecture” names the Palmer’s architects, but not its owner. Perhaps it was Alfred L. Palmer, who dealt in both real estate and law in the early 1890s, the year this ornate edifice opened.

Architects Arlen Towle and Frank Wilcox shared a brief partnership between 1889 and 1891. They may have been among those professionals who hurried here after the Seattle business district burned to the ground on June 6, 1889. The Great Fire was stopped short of University Street by the inflammable foundation of the Arlington Hotel (the Bay Building), then under construction. Two blocks to the north, at the corner of Pike Street and Front (First) Avenue, the Palmer also got its start in 1889.

The Empire Laundry was another of the Palmer’s tenants. It is represented here by two delivery wagons and its sidewalk storefront, which is nestled between the entrance to the York Café and the door to the hotel, at far right. At the hotel, one could request a room on the American Plan, which included meals, for between $1 and $1.50 a day.

Judging from the ads, the York’s most sensational renters were health providers who promoted either magnetic healing or massage or both. Most persistent were professors Gill and Brunn. For several weeks in 1902, they offered therapies including osteo-manipulation, vibration, hypnotism, vital magnetism, a “new light cure” and psychology for “bad habits.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

There was no cure, however, for the tremors that the hotel began to feel in 1903 when tunneling for the Great Northern railroad began to shake the York’s foundations. The hotel was razed in November 1904, a few days after the digging from the tunnel’s two ends met at the center.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s blog at