A Brief History of The Eastern Hotel
by Andy Mizuki
The Eastern Hotel is one of the earliest buildings in Seattle’s International District dating back to the years 1909-1911. After the regarding of nearby Jackson street, most of which was completed in 1910, there was much building construction in the International District where many wood structures were replaced by masonry buildings. The Eastern Hotel replaced a two story wood frame lodging built in 1903. It is one of the earliest examples of the typical multistory apartment hotel found in the International District, with retail spaces along the main and alley facades and single room units on the upper floors.
The Eastern Hotel was one of the earliest properties of the Wa Chong Company and possibly constructed to house their company and their workers. The Wa Chong Company operated as a retail and import business and as a labor contractor. Founded by Chin Chun Hock, the hotel played an extremely important social role within the International District’s Chinese Community. Considered the first Chinese settler in King County, Chin Chun Hock was also one of the first residents in King County.
Subsequently, the building housed a series of Seattle’s Chinese and Japanese retail businesses and Filipino cannery workers. Carlos Bulosan, the Filipino American author of America is in the Heart, lived in the Eastern Hotel in the 1930’s. Operating under various owners, the hotel had different names: O.K. Hotel (according to Polk’s 1913 Directory), the Kanagawa Hotel (1913-1918), and the Freedom Hotel (1919-1944).
The Eastern Hotel was also the space for the Maynard Theater, one of Seattle’s earliest movie theaters and listed in Polk’s Directory in 1913. In 1947, the Chinn Family bought the building and owned it until the end of 1996, when Interim Community Development, an International District based non-profit housing developer and sponsors of the Carlos Bulosan Memorial Project, bought it and renovated it.
The building is also significant because it was originally built by David Dow, a very prominent contractor and Seattle citizen in the 1890’s until his death in the 1920’s. David Dow is also listed on the original building permit as the builder of the “Coliseum Building,” presumably B. Marcus Priteca’s Coliseum Building still standing in Downtown Seattle.
The Eastern Hotel was designated as a Landmark by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board in October 1978 (Ordinance #107750). The building was also placed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of “Seattle’s Chinatown Historic District” in 1986.
The 5 million renovation of the Eastern Hotel by ICDA, was performed by Kovalenko Hale Architects, Marpac Construction, and in cooperation with the Wa Sang Associates (Chinn Family) and Lola Lee. The project involved 3 programs: historic renovation, 46 new apartments for low-income tenants, and economic development with renovated retail space.
In keeping with the historical nature of the building, great care was taken to restore its historic details: the cleaning of brick, repairing the exterior metal cornice, and sensitive restoration of the interior common areas and corridors. The renovation, which adhered closely to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic buildings, was completed in October 1998.