I’ve been putting off writing this entry because I don’t have much to tell. I haven’t been able to get to the Puget Sound Archives to find the photos of the buildings on Block 113 and now I have a steady job, so it is unlikely I’ll get there soon, which is unfortunate.
Also, I have done some research into the inhabitants of the building, but I can only check on genealogy websites at the library, so that’s slow going as well. Since I don’t have much to report, I thought I would talk a little about the buildings that were on the block and put them in a bit of context.
The Altamont was frequently referred to as the Altamont Hotel or the Hotel Altamont, but it’s not what we would generally think of as a hotel. Going by the ads in the Seattle Times, board was available for guests and they generally stayed for extended periods of time, enough that they would list the address in the City Directory as their home. Bathrooms would have been shared and rooms didn’t generally have kitchens or cooking appliances. Having kitchens and/or bathrooms for each bedroom bumps the building into apartment territory, which were taking off in Seattle at the time, what with a population boom and limited space. Plus not everyone could afford a house. In her great book, Shared Walls: Seattle Apartment Buildings 1900-1939, Diana E. James explains:
Boarding houses played important roles: as a fixture in the country’s housing market, as a boost to the local economy from money spent on upkeep and food and supplies, and as income in the proprietor’s pocket from rents recieved. (James, Diana E. (2012). Shared Walls: Seattle Apartment Buildings, 1900-1939. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.)
Knowing it was a boarding house can help us know the economic class of the inhabitants. Frequently, boarding houses were built for a more itinterent working class crowd, more than likely mostly single men. These were very popular in the downtown area, in the International District and near more industrial sections of town. The old South Lake Union area was rife with them. Rife, I tell you.
The listings for the Altamont on the Seattle Times Digital Historical Archives at the Seattle Public Library tell a little different story. People who live there are mentioned in the society pages of the Times (or at least one woman, Mrs. Winfield R. Smith who, it seems, is constantly hosting informal teas.) That and some of the occupations of the people in the building lead me to believe that the Altamont was a bit higher class. Not super-rich people, mind you, but distinctly upper class and people who were striving to seem like society.
We’ll talk more about Winfield R. Smith in the future, but for now we’ll leave you with this picture of a little kitten asking you to love it. Won’t you? Won’t you love it?