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Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Old Gig Harbor Hotel


When many of us think about the old Gig Harbor hotels, we generally think about the Novak Hotel which burned in a dramatic fire in the early 20th century and the Gilich and Richardson’s Peninsula Hotel built in 1925.  The Peninsula hotel still stands majestically at the corner of Pioneer Avenue and Harborview Drive, although the merchants have changed as has the interior of the hotel itself.

Today in November 2013 the nine hotel rooms on the upper level are occupied by All Star Guitar.  The street level is occupied by Spiro’s.  Imagine Great Things occupies the basement area. So the old building still has a lively life going on inside its walls.

But, there was an even hotel in Gig Harbor, built in 1892 by Mr. Charles Hess.  Surprisingly, it was operated as a hotel and rooming house from the beginning in 1892 until sometime in 1908.

The Old Gig Harbor Hotel is located at the head of the harbor with its view mostly towards the east and is located in the Henry Woodworth plat.  When I drove by it recently, it still looked like the photograph contained in the Pierce County Historic Preservation Inventory Project done in 1981.  The information in their narrative was prepared by Neil F. Sleevi with assistance of numerous residents and the Peninsula Historical Society.    The information that follows is from their report.

“The Gig Harbor Hotel was built in 1892 by a Mr. Charles Hess.  It is situated in the north part of Gig Harbor, Washington.  The original plat was done by the man who sold the property to Mr. Hess by an early settler to this region - Henry Woodworth.  This entire part of Gig Harbor still bears the name as the Woodworth Addition to Gig Harbor.  

He (Henry Woodworth) purchased 88 acres of this land from one Nettie Siebat in 1885 for 800 dollars.  A large value increase occurred on the original three lots on which the hotel stands in 1891 when sold to Mr. Hess.  The full purchase proce was 800 dollars at 10% interest on a one year note!  This seems unusual for what one would expect in 1891.

The Old Gig Harbor Hotel

The Gig Harbor Hotel was short-lived and would be considerd more of a rooming house than a hotel.  The fact remains that early residents have always known the structure as the “Old Gig Harbor Hotel or simply the old hotel.”.

The hotel was only operated as such for sixteen years.  It was not unlike many other large houses in this area in that it was a haven for early peninsula travelers.  According to accounts, steamship passengers would often become stranded on this side of the Narrows for the night and would have to wait until the following day to sail to the city of Tacoma.  This hotel and many of the other homes would lodge salesmen and the like.  A six-horse livery stable was located nearby at the old Scott home which still stands at the foot of Peacock Hill.  Travelers to Tacoma would put up animals there and other places like it.  

According to one account, the hotel is situated in an area of Gig Harbor that was once called by the name of Artena.  This is still documented on the original plat of this area.  The early passenger boats docked nearby and were within short walking distance of the hotel.  Also located in the neighborhood was the old Methodist Church which has since been moved.  Less than a half mile from the hotel, a mill was begun.

For the past seventy three years the hotel has been used as a private dwelling.  One later family in 1915 owned the home and was headed by a shoemaker with many children named Baldwin.  Since then it has been occupied sporadically by owners and renters.  There are several periods in its history that it was not occupied at all.  

Not many of the older homes remain on this side of the harbor today, but the old hotel is not forgotten by some as part of the early development of Gig Harbor.  It was built in the same year as the harbor’s large St. Louis Hotel.  In fall and winter it can be clearly seen throughout the Gig Harbor area.  It is situated on a hill facing east to Mt. Rainier and Gig Harbor.  It remains a strong link to a much different time in this part of the peninsula and the Northwest.

Sources:
  • Interview with Mrs. Harold Ryan 
  • Interview with Mr. Oak Ludholm
  • Interview with Mrs. Ida Overly
  • Interview with Mrs. Betty Atwater
  • Interview with Mr. Ed Finholm
  • Interview with Mrs. Mabel Dillon (Scott)
  • Interview with Mrs. Nellie Erickson

All of the above mentioned persons were living in the Gig Harbor area between 1900-1910 or earlier except Mrs. Atwater”

The Old Gig Harbor Hotel

Please remember that the home is presently occupied as a private dwelling and one needs permission to enter the grounds.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

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