When Marilyn and Leonard Guthrie bought the 120-year-old hotel and its tavern in the old downtown nearly six years ago, squatters lived upstairs and the building was falling apart.
Today the tavern has the ambiance of an Old West saloon, with a player piano and planked floors dusted with peanut shells. The hotel rooms upstairs boast furnishings from the late 1800s and early 1900s, along with modern flat-screen TVs and Internet access.
There's no longer a communal bath down the hall, though. Each of the five completed guest rooms has its own new bathroom.
For the Guthries, who have done much of their own construction to bring the hotel back, more work remains. They hope to open another five guest rooms and a banquet room before the end of the year.
For city officials, the opening of the hotel, the only one in Stanwood, marks another step toward a revitalized downtown -- and economic development. For members of the Stanwood Area Historical Society, there is relief that another local treasure has been saved from the wrecking ball.
And for the ghosts in the hotel, it's party time once again.
That's what Tod Kertz believes. He is the founder of the Marysville-based Northwest Paranormal Research Group, which this year recorded what he said are the faint voices of children in the refurbished hotel's main hall. No children were in the building, but voices could be heard, Kertz said.
The Guthries, who live in Stanwood, are intrigued by the haunted hotel story, but their primary concern is to regain some of their building's historical integrity.
Marilyn Guthrie is proud of her big notebook, replete with historic photos, newspaper clippings and remembrances from customers.
She has framed copies of the Everett Daily Herald and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from February 1929 that her husband found stuffed into the walls as insulation. Historic photos and watercolors of the hotel are displayed throughout the building.
"We wanted to bring the Hotel Stanwood back," Guthrie said. "It deserved the attention. We've been working on it for years, little by little. The hotel had a bad reputation, but now it's lovely. I want people to see what is here."
Leonard Guthrie, 61, has a construction business and works on the hotel in his off time. Marilyn Guthrie, 59, spends most of her time running the busy saloon and reopened hotel, working Craigslist and visiting thrift stores to find just the right old sink for the new men's restroom, or the perfect door for the outside entrance to the hotel.
"People love this old place. There's not anything else like it in Stanwood," Guthrie said. "Leonard and I met in seventh grade and we've done all sorts of things, but I never would have thought we would end up running an old hotel and saloon."
Guthrie charges $125 a night for the hotel rooms, which includes a continental breakfast and a possible visit from a ghost.
"At first, when I heard the stories, I thought, 'OK, whatever.' And then some of my employees began to tell stories and a couple of paranormal groups made recordings in the hotel," Guthrie said. "It's very interesting and I will document events, but that's all I plan to do. The hotel stands on its own. It's not a scary place and I don't want people staying away because of ghost stories. There are no creepy 360-degree head-spinnings going on here."
The opening of the Stanwood Hotel means the city of Stanwood can start applying for tourism tax funds from the state to help with tourist activities in town.
"We are pleased that the Guthries have chosen to restore a historic building," said Stanwood community development director Rebecca Lind. "We want people to know that it is possible to reinvest in buildings in the flood plain. We don't have to give up the character of old Stanwood."
Stanwood building inspector Jeff Foss said the Guthries have done a good job with their construction project and the city is encouraging them to finish their work on the hotel.
Karen Prasse, a member of the historical society, said it's good when people restore old buildings.
"Restoration is hard work," Prasse said. "We're especially pleased that the building remains the Stanwood Hotel."
Want to visit?
The Stanwood Hotel & Saloon is located at 26926 102nd Ave. NW. For information, call 360-629-2888. The hotel is now open. An official grand opening is planned for late summer or early fall.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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