Sorrento Hotel

900 Madison Street

Sorrento Hotel, Seattle, December 13, 2011, Photo by Visitor7 (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Architectural features, Sorrento Hotel, Seattle, December 10, 2021, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Hotel Sorrento, Seattle, ca. 1910, Courtesy Seattle Public Library (spl_pc_00832)
Sorrento Hotel lobby, Seattle, ca. 1921, Courtesy Seattle Public Library (spl_shp_41515)
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From the corner of Terry and Madison, you will see the Sorrento, situated dramatically above downtown. Samuel Rosenberg, a Seattle clothing merchant, developed the hotel in preparation for the crowds expected to arrive in the city for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. He hired architect Harlan Thomas to design it in 1907-1908. Thomas had made several trips to Italy, and convinced Rosenberg that Seattle’s topography and the view of the harbor recalled the Naples coast. Therefore, the new hotel would be Italian Renaissance in design and be named “Sorrento,” complete with palm trees adorning its entry court. So that all guests could appreciate the full sweep of the view, Thomas put the dining room on the top floor—a first for a hotel in the city. The patterned brick and terra cotta building opened for business in the spring of 1909.

During its years as a residential and tourist hotel, the Sorrento catered to numerous important guests, especially concert artists and stage stars appearing at the Moore and Metropolitan theaters. Honduras mahogany paneling adds warmth to the lobby. The Italian garden panel above the fireplace surround was commissioned from the Rookwood Tile Company in Cincinnati. The lobby was originally furnished with Mission oak chairs, rockers, and tables, and was much more spartan than you see it today. The Sorrento Hotel is a Seattle Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In the vicinity:

VITO’S, across Madison from the Sorrento, is an iconic restaurant and lounge, opened by Vito and Jimmie Santoro in 1953. Current owner Greg Lundgren noted that “Everyone has a story about Vito’s. It is sex and drugs and priests and politicians and criminals and card games and murder and family and really good cannelloni and ghosts.”

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