By Meghan Hall
Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, Hotel Theodore — formerly known as The Roosevelt Hotel — has seen the City undergo several major shifts since it first opened its doors in 1929. Now, 90 years later, the 20-story Art Deco building located on 1531 7th Ave. got a facelift thanks to property owner Provenance Hotels, local architecture firm Cushing Terrell and design consultants Susan Marinello Interiors and David Hill Design. The focus of the renovations was not just to restore the hotel to its former glory, but to highlight the industries that have taken Seattle from a regional hub to a modern, global city.
“Seattle has this long history of what we call makers, builders doers,” explained John Borer, architect at Cushing Terrell and Hotel Theodore’s project manager. “The economic history of Seattle includes the lumber industry, the coal industry, maritime and aviation history; there are a lot of different industries and people have really gotten their hands dirty to be successful. More recently, that has transitioned into the technology sector, but there is still kind of that can-do nature and entrepreneurial spirit in people. We really tried to capture that in the project.”
The renovation of the project, beginning from design conceptualization through to delivery, took about three years. Planning began in early 2015 after Portland, Oreg.-based Provenance Hotels, a hotel and hospitality investment and management company, purchased the property for just under $21 million, according to public documents. Renovations were completed at the end of 2017.
While the building had been previously renovated over the years, the newest updates were more widespread and included the hotel lobby, first-floor coffee shop, meeting rooms, the two-story interior atrium and exterior façade. The project also included the addition of an upscale restaurant and bar called Rider, which also pays homage to local industries through its open fish counter and grill. Susan Marinello Interiors tackled the hotel design, while David Hill was responsible for the design of the restaurant.
Overall, the renovations were further inspired by the original Art Deco architecture of the hotel, and was something the project team worked diligently to keep.
“The building has been around a while, so it has some really good character and design elements to it,” said Borer. “The masonry and concrete structure has really cool detailing, and the whole building is in an Art Deco style. Everything from the massing to the details here have a lot of history; it is in the heart of it all.”
The design team worked to incorporate hand-crafted, local materials into the design. The atrium space includes murals completed by local artists. The atrium was also opened up through the second floor, and the previous walls between the hotel’s conference rooms and atrium were taken out to increase flow. Cushing Terrell also worked to remove the building’s dropped ceilings and, when the building’s original skylight could not be salvaged, faux skylights were incorporated into the design to provide visual interest and light.
“We really wanted to use materials with a hand-made aesthetic, but a refined hand-made aesthetic to complement the historic and distinctive Art Deco styling,” said Borer.
However, dealing with a historic structure like Hotel Theodore presents its challenges. According to Borer, taking apart any historic building often means finding unexpected design additions and learning more about the building’s structure. Borer notes finding harlequin wallpaper — which the team believes dates to the hotel’s construction — during demolition. And, added Borer, the construction team had to dig deep to find information on the building, pouring over city records to find the original construction drawings from 1929.
“The construction techniques of 1929 were different. Even a well put-together building of that era has a certain amount of variance and accuracy that occurred because of the tools of the trade that were available,” explained Borer. “It’s really interesting to see how things were done back then, but dealing with the nature of an existing building that is 100 years old is a challenge.”
While Borer declined to disclose the final price tag of the renovations, he did acknowledge the updates were several million dollars. However, now complete, the Hotel Theodore is now open to the public once again, and will continue to highlight Seattle’s changing legacy.
“From day one, we knew we wanted to celebrate those pieces that were part of the original construction,” said Borer. “I think that relates to a lot of trends in hospitality and restaurant spaces in terms of creating authentic experiences; [we wanted] to celebrate the history and character of the building were created instead of a fake history or backdrop.”