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The Seattle Times building pictured in the 1970s. It has since been largely demolished. | Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, item No. 175426

8 Pacific Northwest works by Robert Reamer

From forest lodges to Art Deco towers

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The Seattle Times building pictured in the 1970s. It has since been largely demolished. | Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, item No. 175426

Depending on where you’re from, you might know Robert Reamer for one or a couple of things. Nationally, he’s famed as the mastermind behind the stunning parkitecture that defined Yellowstone National Park in the early 20th century, including the famed Old Faithful Inn, the Lake Hotel, and the late Canyon Hotel.

But if you live in the Pacific Northwest, Reamer’s work from the 1920s and 1930s surrounds us in our daily lives. In Seattle alone, Reamer’s work stretches from downtown to the University District, including the recently-renovated Edward Meany Hotel (aka Hotel Deca, aka Graduate Seattle). but you can find his touches all over Washington State, from Bellingham to Spokane to Grays Harbor County.

His work for the Parks Service showed his command of a variety of different architectural styles, but add in his Northwest work and the array is incredible, ranging from theaters to office towers. Chances are you know at least a couple of these eight works.

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1. Lake Quinault Lodge, 1926

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345 S Shore Rd
Quinault, WA 98575
(360) 288-2900
Visit Website

Reamer’s first Washington State project was more like his work at Yellowstone—and is now another National Parks-run facility. It was constructed in just 53 days, working with construction superintendent George E. Garrison, who also worked with Reamer at Yellowstone.

Lake Quinault Lodge took Reamer’s sensibility from Yellowstone and injected Northwest regionalism, with a two-story, wood-frame structure and a steeply pitched asphalt roof. The center structure is decorated with large dormers and a prominent stone chimney, topped by a prominent hip roof.

2. The 5th Avenue Theatre, 1926

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1308 5th Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 625-1900
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The Skinner Building, anchored by the 5th Avenue Theater, was commissioned in the 1920s by Harry C. Arthur and Pacific Theatres, at the time the largest theater operator on the West Coast. The outside was relatively mellow, save for stone walls that contrasted from the brick buildings of the time. But it provided a backdrop for opulent interior, created by Reamer and interior designer Gustav Liljestrom. Because Chinese-inspired decor was trendy at the time—especially problematic with the Chinese Exclusion Act still in full force—the theater’s ceiling was a giant replica of the throne room in Beijing’s Imperial Palace, and took other inspiration from the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heavenly Peace, and the Summer Palace.

The building lost the “5th Avenue” marquee in the building’s 1979-1980 remodel, but it was replaced in 2009 after it was discovered that the Skinner Building was given more than strong enough structural supports to hold up a new one.

3. Mount Baker Theatre, 1927

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4408, 104 N Commercial St
Bellingham, WA 98225
(360) 734-6080
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After completing the 5th Avenue Theater, Reamer was commissioned by another theater mogul, William Fox (yes, that Fox), to design Bellingham’s Mount Baker Theatre, complete with a central tower that’s an iconic part of Bellingham’s skyline (although it’s now dwarfed by taller buildings). It was one of the first reinforced concrete buildings in the Northwest, something that Reamer would continue to play with in his future work.

The theater, partially because of community stewardship, is largely intact, save for safety repairs and a larger stage. It even uses the original Wurlitzer organ from 1927.

4. 1411 Fourth Avenue Building, 1929

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1411 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

With the aptly named 1411 Fourth Avenue Building on Fourth Avenue and Union Street, Reamer continued to eschew the surrounding area’s brick and terra cotta with stone surfacing, using Art Deco motifs like piers and spandrels with a Celtic-style reliefs. It’s both a Seattle and national landmark.

From 1997 to 2012, the ground-floor retail included Tully’s flagship location. Onni purchased the building in 2016 for $30 million, and it continues to host various offices, including a Wework location.

5. Great Northern Building, 1929

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1404 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

Just a block from 1411 Fourth, the Great Northern Building also features featuring Art Deco motifs, although shorter and more subtle than its sibling. Its most ornate feature is a botanical frieze above the first floor—currently home to a Men’s Wearhouse.

6. The Seattle Times Building (RIP), 1931

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1120 John St
Seattle, WA 98109

The Blethen family, which still owns the Seattle Times, commissioned this Art Deco building in the early 1930s to replace its former headquarters in the flatiron-style Times Square building, which, unlike its replacement, is still standing today. It was made a Seattle landmark in 1996.

Onni Group took control of the South Lake Union property in 2013, and it was largely demolished in 2017, save for the south and east façades. While the developer’s plans were originally for residential towers, it appears Onni has switched gears to an office tower, according to permits filed with the city. Regardless, the plan is for remaining façades to stick around.

7. Edward Meany Hotel, 1931

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4507 Brooklyn Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 634-2000
Visit Website

The Edmond Meany Hotel, known most recently as Hotel Deca (but recently reopened as Graduate Seattle), has a unique Art Deco shape designed to give every room something at least close to a corner view. At the time, its construction was groundbreaking: it was one of the first buildings in the region to be made of poured concrete rather than brick and terra cotta, something Reamer would continue to employ.

8. Fox Theater, 1931

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1001 W Sprague Ave
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 624-1200
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William Fox continued his relationship with Reamer after the construction of Mount Baker Theatre with the Fox Theater, now the Morton Woldson Theater at the Fox. Like Mount Baker, the Fox was a large Art Deco theater encased in concrete; unlike Mount Baker, the Fox has gone through a lot of changes. It lost its organ in the 1960s, and the 1970s, the struggling theater was divided into two smaller theaters. By 2000, it was slated for demolition to become a parking lot.

That same year, though, the Spokane Symphony purchased the venue, and led a multi-year fundraising and restoration effort. Eventually, the cigarette smoke and popcorn grease was cleared away and the Deco murals were restored, along with a hand-painted fire curtain.

1. Lake Quinault Lodge, 1926

345 S Shore Rd, Quinault, WA 98575

Reamer’s first Washington State project was more like his work at Yellowstone—and is now another National Parks-run facility. It was constructed in just 53 days, working with construction superintendent George E. Garrison, who also worked with Reamer at Yellowstone.

Lake Quinault Lodge took Reamer’s sensibility from Yellowstone and injected Northwest regionalism, with a two-story, wood-frame structure and a steeply pitched asphalt roof. The center structure is decorated with large dormers and a prominent stone chimney, topped by a prominent hip roof.

345 S Shore Rd
Quinault, WA 98575

2. The 5th Avenue Theatre, 1926

1308 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

The Skinner Building, anchored by the 5th Avenue Theater, was commissioned in the 1920s by Harry C. Arthur and Pacific Theatres, at the time the largest theater operator on the West Coast. The outside was relatively mellow, save for stone walls that contrasted from the brick buildings of the time. But it provided a backdrop for opulent interior, created by Reamer and interior designer Gustav Liljestrom. Because Chinese-inspired decor was trendy at the time—especially problematic with the Chinese Exclusion Act still in full force—the theater’s ceiling was a giant replica of the throne room in Beijing’s Imperial Palace, and took other inspiration from the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heavenly Peace, and the Summer Palace.

The building lost the “5th Avenue” marquee in the building’s 1979-1980 remodel, but it was replaced in 2009 after it was discovered that the Skinner Building was given more than strong enough structural supports to hold up a new one.

1308 5th Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

3. Mount Baker Theatre, 1927

4408, 104 N Commercial St, Bellingham, WA 98225

After completing the 5th Avenue Theater, Reamer was commissioned by another theater mogul, William Fox (yes, that Fox), to design Bellingham’s Mount Baker Theatre, complete with a central tower that’s an iconic part of Bellingham’s skyline (although it’s now dwarfed by taller buildings). It was one of the first reinforced concrete buildings in the Northwest, something that Reamer would continue to play with in his future work.

The theater, partially because of community stewardship, is largely intact, save for safety repairs and a larger stage. It even uses the original Wurlitzer organ from 1927.

4408, 104 N Commercial St
Bellingham, WA 98225

4. 1411 Fourth Avenue Building, 1929

1411 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

With the aptly named 1411 Fourth Avenue Building on Fourth Avenue and Union Street, Reamer continued to eschew the surrounding area’s brick and terra cotta with stone surfacing, using Art Deco motifs like piers and spandrels with a Celtic-style reliefs. It’s both a Seattle and national landmark.

From 1997 to 2012, the ground-floor retail included Tully’s flagship location. Onni purchased the building in 2016 for $30 million, and it continues to host various offices, including a Wework location.

1411 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

5. Great Northern Building, 1929

1404 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

Just a block from 1411 Fourth, the Great Northern Building also features featuring Art Deco motifs, although shorter and more subtle than its sibling. Its most ornate feature is a botanical frieze above the first floor—currently home to a Men’s Wearhouse.

1404 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

6. The Seattle Times Building (RIP), 1931

1120 John St, Seattle, WA 98109

The Blethen family, which still owns the Seattle Times, commissioned this Art Deco building in the early 1930s to replace its former headquarters in the flatiron-style Times Square building, which, unlike its replacement, is still standing today. It was made a Seattle landmark in 1996.

Onni Group took control of the South Lake Union property in 2013, and it was largely demolished in 2017, save for the south and east façades. While the developer’s plans were originally for residential towers, it appears Onni has switched gears to an office tower, according to permits filed with the city. Regardless, the plan is for remaining façades to stick around.

1120 John St
Seattle, WA 98109

7. Edward Meany Hotel, 1931

4507 Brooklyn Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105

The Edmond Meany Hotel, known most recently as Hotel Deca (but recently reopened as Graduate Seattle), has a unique Art Deco shape designed to give every room something at least close to a corner view. At the time, its construction was groundbreaking: it was one of the first buildings in the region to be made of poured concrete rather than brick and terra cotta, something Reamer would continue to employ.

4507 Brooklyn Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98105

8. Fox Theater, 1931

1001 W Sprague Ave, Spokane, WA 99201

William Fox continued his relationship with Reamer after the construction of Mount Baker Theatre with the Fox Theater, now the Morton Woldson Theater at the Fox. Like Mount Baker, the Fox was a large Art Deco theater encased in concrete; unlike Mount Baker, the Fox has gone through a lot of changes. It lost its organ in the 1960s, and the 1970s, the struggling theater was divided into two smaller theaters. By 2000, it was slated for demolition to become a parking lot.

That same year, though, the Spokane Symphony purchased the venue, and led a multi-year fundraising and restoration effort. Eventually, the cigarette smoke and popcorn grease was cleared away and the Deco murals were restored, along with a hand-painted fire curtain.

1001 W Sprague Ave
Spokane, WA 99201