The Publix and Other SRO Hotels

Publix Hotel

Looking just to the south of the Chinatown Gate, the Publix building is a late example of one of the historic SRO (single room occupancy) hotels that characterize Seattle’s Chinatown International District. Now the home of businesses like Dough Zone, Momosan and Hood Famous Cafe & Bar, the Publix first opened in 1927. Like other SROs, it served visitors and was the home of temporary laborers.

Most SROs in the neighborhood were built between 1880 and 1920. Usually, the first floors were commercial businesses like drugstores, grocers, and sundry shops, with offices such as doctors and herbalists on the mezzanine level, with residential floors above. The Publix once had 12 storefronts and 211 rooms. From 1945 to 2003, it was managed by a Japanese American Taniguchi family. The Publix was reopened in 2016, a mix of market-rate one-bedroom and studio apartments.

According to historian Dr. Marie Wong, who wrote Building Tradition: Pan-Asian Seattle and Life in the Residential Hotels, about SRO hotels in the Chinatown International District and Pioneer Square, these buildings were often built near transportation hubs, and served transient laborers, including those who worked on railroads, for canneries in Alaska, and in agriculture in Eastern Washington. They became home for low-income people from a mix of ethnicities.

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