The O.K. Hotel

212 Alaskan Way S

Contemporary photo of the O.K. Hotel location
Ok Hotel with Heidelberg mural, March 18, 1926
OK Hotel interior, Seattle, May 1, 1997
Nirvana, Fits of Depression, and Bikini Kill concert poster, OK Hotel, Seattle, April 17, 1991 Design by Mark Bendix

The O.K. Hotel was built in 1914 here on Railroad Avenue S (today’s Alaskan Way S) in a sketchy part of the neighborhood. Facing west toward the rough-and-tumble Elliott Bay waterfront, it was geared to salty sailors, muscle-bound dockworkers, and lubricated lumberjacks all raring to blow their dough on Skid Road.

In 1953 Seattle’s new bypass route for the old Highway 99 — the immense overhead concrete bridge called the Alaska Way Viaduct – was erected, creating even more soot, noise, and grim darkness for the O.K.’s residents. Did we mention that trains also clanged along in a below-grade tunnel? Well, decades of obscurity flew by until 1988 when new lessees, Tia and Steve Freeborn, figured the spot was ideal for loud rock shows. Kicking off with an unofficial show by Mother Love Bone (pre-Pearl Jam), thousands of subsequent shows would feature bands such as Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Bikini Kill, the Gits, Sublime, the Queens of the Stone Age — and most famously, Nirvana, which debuted its future hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” here on April 17, 1991.

The venue also was included as a filming location, called the “Java Stop, in the 1992 film Singles. But all this fun ended on February 28, 2001, when the Nisqually earthquake rocked the building and the club vacated. Refurbished, the O.K. Hotel Apartments now offer 42 residential and art studio spaces.

Continue south to S. Main Street and our next stop.

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