In 1914, Spokane, Washington was booming. The city was the jewel of the northwest, a center for timber and the rich mining of northern Idaho. A devastating fire a couple decades earlier, in 1889, had nearly destroyed the city, but in so doing, had opened the door for new entrepreneurs and businessmen to find themselves and make their marks – and fortunes.
Louis Davenport had arrived in the city just before the fire, and when nearly the entire city burned down, saw his chance to make an impact on Spokane. Davenport’s Restaurant opened in tents with salvaged tables, and was an instant success. He built it into a permanent fixture, and his clientele even included President Taft in 1909. So when a group of businesspeople wanted to open a grand hotel in Spokane, they knew just who to get to run it.
Local architect Kirtland Cutter, who had designed nearly every prominent home in post-fire Spokane, was selected alongside Davenport to oversee the project and, in August of 1914 the Davenport Hotel opened. The hotel rapidly earned the reputation not only as the finest establishment in Spokane, but one of the best hotels in the country. Ornate ballrooms sat alongside opulent public areas, and the great fireplace in the lobby was a meeting spot for nearly every local businessperson.
The lobby looks much as it did in 1914.
Louis Davenport sold the hotel in 1945, and the subsequent series of owners bankrupted the place. In 1987, it finally closed and was slated for demolition, though it was saved by fear of airborne asbestos, and sat vacant for fifteen years.
In 2000, Walt and Karen Worthy purchased the Davenport and spent more than $30 million of their own money restoring it to its former glory. It reopened in 2002, and with it, downtown Spokane began a renaissance. Businesses wanted to be located near this gem, and locals and tourists went out of their way to walk through the stunning lobby and ballrooms, all refurbished to their previous splendor.
The Historic Davenport Hotel contains two distinct architectural styles, both seen here.
The Davenport Hotel today is the crown jewel of a downtown that is charming, walkable, filled with family-owned shops and restaurants, and always busy. A continuous covered elevated pedestrian walkway system keeps strolling possible even in the winter snows. But the hotel is the focal point.
The lobby is open and inviting, sofas and chairs placed all over, while photographs of the original property tell its story around the periphery. Upstairs, each ballroom is lovely, but the Hall of the Doges is the true capstone. (It was actually removed whole and relocated to a newly constructed wing of the hotel during its refurbishment.) Gilded woodwork lines the hallways, and the paneling contains its own secrets. (“Will you marry me” is spelled out in the grain on four consecutive panels near the Hall of the Doges.)
The Hall of the Doges
On the seventh floor, the only remaining original guest room, the Circus Room, is perhaps the most incredible room I’ve ever stayed in. Just check out this incredible detail in the wood carvings on the walls!
The Circus Room. Wow!
Not all of downtown Spokane has come all the way back to its former glory. Elsewhere, plans for redevelopment are underway. In a more “seedy” corner lies One Tree Cider House. A new trendy place, it reveals what this area will soon become: another cool neighborhood, this time anchored by a Hotel Indigo that will be opening across the street. Try a cider flight here. It is unparalleled!
A cider flight at One Tree Cider
Downtown Spokane is truly a lovely place, and much of that is owed to the Worthy family, and to their vision of restoring the Historic Davenport Hotel. Today, they have added three more hotels to their portfolio, all bearing the classic Davenport name. Together, they and this incredible property have revitalized a wonderful downtown core, and given me the most memorable stay I have ever had in a hotel.
Note: thank you to Visit Spokane for sponsoring my stay at the Historic Davenport Hotel. I have no relationship with the hotel itself, and they don’t even know I am writing this piece. No compensation was given in exchange for this article. I don’t review individual hotels, but this isn’t just a hotel; it is an icon, a true symbol of a wonderful city.