EVERETT — It’s been 125 years, but the Monte Cristo Hotel still holds promise.
The building at 1507 Wall St. is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for representing Everett’s economic prosperity in an earlier era.
While its purpose has changed throughout the years, the building’s quality has inspired the Monte Cristo Awards — which recognize neighbors who help make Everett special by taking pride in their property.
Though the original was built in 1892 and a second one replaced it in 1925, the hotel got its start in 1890. It was in a dream.
The city’s founders, Henry Hewitt Jr. and Charles Colby, had a grandiose vision for a new city on the Port Gardner Peninsula.
Hewitt and Colby worked to attract investors from the East Coast by sharing their plans for a great industrial port flanked by Port Gardner and the Snohomish River. They incorporated the Everett Land Co. that year.
A construction boom soon followed. The land was cleared for a nail factory, a barge works, a paper mill and smelter — though the stumps were left in the building frenzy. The plats between the river and bay were swiftly filled in with homes, schools, churches and theaters. A wharf, sawmill, warehouse and a hotel were also built during this time.
While numerous buildings were erected between 1891 and 1893, it was that last one — the Monte Cristo Hotel — that was as grand as the dreams of Everett’s founders.
“It was the most luxurious structure in town,” Everett historian Jack O’Donnell said. “More than any other building of that time, it was a symbol of Everett’s progress and promise.”
Everett architect Charles Hove designed the handsome hotel for the Everett Land Co. to provide first-class accommodations for visiting Eastern capitalists. It was built for around $50,000 — about $1.3 million in today’s money. It opened on Nov. 12, 1892.
The city’s finest hotel was named for the gold mines in the Cascades that shared a railroad with the town and, thus, also shared a history.
“The mines were on everyone’s minds,” Everett historian Mindy Van Wingen said. “The name ‘Monte Cristo’ represented wealth and prosperity.”
The 14,396-square-foot wooden hotel on the corner of Pacific and Kromer avenues was three stories high, had 80 rooms, large verandas and elegant turrets built in the Stick and Queen Anne styles. It was a extravagant affair.
Not only was the Monte Cristo a place where investors could enjoy a visit and live in comfort, but the hotel also served as the hub of the town. It’s where Everett’s elite dined, were entertained and held business and club meetings.
With the new hotel, Hewitt and Colby’s “stump town” was ready to become a city. With a population of about 5,000, Everett was incorporated on May 8, 1893. It was then and is still today Snohomish County’s largest city.
The Monte Cristo was the pride of Everett in its day. But it didn’t last.
Around 1900, it was clear that the hub of the city had moved from Pacific to Hewitt Avenue. After operating for about a decade, the hotel was closed in 1903. All the glory was gone.
The Sisters of Providence purchased the rambling structure in 1905 and turned it into a hospital. After 20 years in the building, the Sisters decided to construct a new Providence Hospital just east of the building. The old hotel was torn down in 1925 to make way for a nurses’ home. (The nurses’ home was not built there, but instead just south of the new hospital on Nassau Street.)
But the dreams held by the men who built the Monte Cristo didn’t die. As Everett’s original grand hotel was demolished, a new one was built at the corner of Wall Street and Hoyt Avenue.
The second hotel, also named the Monte Cristo Hotel, opened in 1925, another boom time. This hotel was designed by Seattle architect Henry Bittman in the Renaissance Revival style. It was built with an investment of $535,000 — about $7.6 million in today’s money. Hundreds of shareholders financed the construction.
The brick building is 59,242 square feet. It was built in an H-shape with two five-story wings and a six-story central structure. It had 150 rooms, an arched opening, bay windows, decorative columns and cement work, skylights and a roofed terrace.
When the hotel opened on May 29, 1925, the Monte Cristo once again was the finest building in Everett and the hub for community events.
Over the next 40 years, the hotel saw two or three new owners and was extensively renovated each time to modernize it and make other first-class additions.
Then in 1964, a citizens group incorporated as the Monte Cristo Hotel Inc. and purchased the hotel. The new owners were approved for a federal loan of $350,000 as well as loans from three local banks totaling $75,000.
Though the group had high hopes for the Monte Cristo, they were not realized. Under their watch, the building declined.
In 1967, the owners defaulted on their loans. In 1970, the federal government sued for payment and foreclosure. In 1973, a federal judge ruled in favor of the government, but the ruling was later appealed. The litigation dragged on for about a decade.
As time passed, the building continued to deteriorate. In 1971, a fire marshal ordered the Monte Cristo’s rooms vacated, citing numerous safety hazards. Its lobby housed businesses and government offices for a year or two. The hotel closed in 1973.
“It was being threatened to be torn down,” Van Wingen said. “Many were saying, ‘This doesn’t serve a purpose anymore’ and ‘It’s a hazard.’ But then a group of really dedicated preservationists worked to save it, saying, ‘We need to preserve this and own this history and revive it.’ ”
Their work paid off: The Monte Cristo Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 3, 1976.
Yet for the next 20 years, the building stood empty and in ruin, a mockery of the promise it once held. It had become the eyesore of the Everett business district.
Numerous plans to restore the once-grand hotel at 1507 Wall St. were dreamed up but fell apart.
In 1994, the Lojis Corp., then an Everett-based developer, won federal tax credits and business investments to renovate the hotel for $6.9 million. Through a private-public partnership, its many rooms were transformed into 69 affordable-housing apartments. A restaurant and arts center were established downstairs, with the lobby serving as an arts exhibit space.
Today, the building is owned by the Seattle-based Archdiocesan Housing Authority. The Monte Cristo Apartments on the upper floors are operated by Catholic Housing Services. On the ground floor, the building’s centerpiece is the Monte Cristo Ballroom, a popular wedding venue.
Despite all the changes, the men who built the hotel in 1925 would recognize not only the ballroom but the lobby with its ornate fireplace.
Even with all the modernizations of this era, Everett’s current hotels — the newest are the Marriott and Hampton Inn on the corners of Wall Street — don’t seem to compare to the grandeur of the Monte Cristo Hotel.
“In my mind, there is no comparison,” O’Donnell said. “This was Everett’s finest hotel. When you walk in (to the modern hotels), you don’t get that feeling you get when you’re in someplace special. But I like old better than new.”
Washington North Coast Magazine
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