Edgewater Hotel

2411 Alaskan Way

Edgewater Hotel, 2411 Alaskan Way, Seattle, October 22, 2020, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Edgewater Inn from Elliott Bay, Seattle, September 4, 2016, Photo by Joe Mabel (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Edgewater Inn, 2411 Alaskan Way, Seattle, July 31, 1981, Courtesy UW Special Collection (SEA4816)
Edgewater Inn (left), Seattle, July 1979, Courtesy Seattle Public Library (spl_wl_res_00108)

The Edgewater Hotel

The Edgewater Hotel is the only hotel on a pier on the central waterfront. There have been vessels converted into temporary hotels and berthed at piers but no other permanent hotels. This is largely due to the fact that the waterfront went from a densely developed, working waterfront without a foot of frontage available for a hotel in the 1940s to a backwater neighborhood that wasn’t inviting to tourists by the end of the 1950s.

In the late 1950s, however, other cities around the country were developing their waterfronts for tourism and Seattleites knew that they had a potential asset in their downtown-adjacent shoreline, even if it was a bit rough and rundown. As plans developed for Century 21, the 1962 world’s fair held at what would become Seattle Center, a burst of development came to the waterfront. Joining the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop with its shelves bursting with oddities and tchotchkes and Ivar’s Acres of Clams restaurant, two longtime waterfront attractions, the Polynesian Restaurant opened on Pier 51, just south of Colman Dock, in 1961. Trident Imports, an enormous retail store, opened soon after on Pier 56, and the boat landing serving Tillicum Village, a tourist attraction featuring Northwest Coast tribes’ traditional salmon bakes, art, dances, and songs, on Blake Island opened on Pier 55.

The Edgewater, on Pier 67, was situated midway between the world’s fair and the tourist activities on Piers 51 to 56. The pier had been known as the Galbraith Dock and had housed the Galbraith & Company lumber and hardware company. The hotel developers cleared the pier’s existing structure to build the new hotel. It opened in July 1962 and guests were invited to “fish from their windows,” which the Beatles did during their stay at the hotel in 1964. Fishing rods and bait were available in the gift shop to fish for cod, dogfish, and even the occasional salmon.

The Edgewater experience remains unique in Seattle largely because the Shoreline Management Act, passed in 1971, introduced new rules for shoreline development. Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program, a planning document developed in accordance with the act’s requirements, set priorities for shoreline uses. The first priority was preservation of natural areas, second were water-dependent uses, and third were non-water dependent uses like the hotel. On the central waterfront, there have been proposals for over-water hotels over the years, but none of the projects have been carried out. Instead, other hotels have been developed on the inland side of Alaskan Way.

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