The Cadillac Hotel

This historic three-story Victorian Italianate style building was brought to life in 1889 and was one of the first hotels built from the ashes after the city’s famous Great Seattle fire earlier that year. Designed by James W. Hetherington and Clements as part of the Wittler Block, it was featured in what was Seattle’s original commercial district.
It opened in 1890, as the Elliott House. From 1891 to 1904, it converted Derig Hotel with 56 rooms and for a very short time was also known as the Star Lodge. By 1906, under new ownership it became The Cadillac Hotel highlighting 59 available rooms. The building had always catered to loggers, fishermen, railroad and shipyard workers employed within the area. In fact, during most of its long run, it served as a workmen’s hotel for young single men and offered cheap rooms at 25 to 50 cents a night. With its front side of the building running along 2nd Ave, the first floor operated a number of businesses on the street level including a lunch counter, a bar, a drugstore and various inexpensive restaurants.
By the late 1930’s, Pioneer Square fell into despair as more and more of the area’s historic buildings became rundown and abandoned. Most of its businesses and residents moved to the newer and more developed locations, which are now collectively known as Downtown. Keep in mind this was also before the region became the historic district we know today.

The Hotel in the 1970's

In 1970, the hotels and apartment buildings in the area took a drastic turn of events when on March 20th an arsonist set two fires at the Ozark Hotel that took over twenty lives. This tragic Seattle incident inspired the Ozark Ordinance, which made it mandatory for all hotels and apartment buildings to install sprinkler systems on upper floors. Unfortunately, most of these establishments within Pioneer Square were already in financial trouble and couldn’t afford the high costs of installing them. This hardship caused many locations to either shut down completely or close off their upper floors. This is exactly what transpired at the Cadillac Hotel as it permanently shut down the hotel portion, leaving just the main floor open for small businesses.
For more then 30 years, nothing but the deserted remains of furniture, half made up beds, clothes still hung in the closets and other personal objects of past lodgers rotted away in the uninhibited rooms. This endured until another tragic event would strike the hotel in 2001.

Results after the 2001 earthquake

On February 28, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake known as the Nisqually Earthquake shook this old building almost to death. The results of the earthquake caused such an extreme amount of damage with the brick facade toppling to the sidewalk and onto parked cars, that the owner, fearful that the rest of the building was soon to follow, applied for a permit to have the building demolished on March 9th. However, many believed that the structure still had some life in her and could be saved, so the permits were denied. Right away work begun in search of how they could save the beloved landmark.
The Cadillac’s heroes would be named Historic Seattle, a preservation organization founded in 1974 shortly after the Pioneer Square neighborhood was saved as a historic district with work to clean it up and preserve it. The organization obtained a $2.04 million Section 108 Loan to purchase the Cadillac Hotel from the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development.
Evicting its last resident, the Phoenix Underground, which operated as a popular nightclub in the basement, renovations to restore the Cadillac started in 2001 and ended in 2005. When the doors opened once again, the building functioned as a museum ran by the National Parks Service as the Klondike Gold Rush Museum. In fact, the building itself is listed in the National Park System as Washington’s smallest park, known as the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Then museum offers free admission and tells the story of Seattle’s most important part of the city’s history.

The sign today

Today, the Cadillac stands strong reflecting its past inside and out. Nonetheless, with such history follows a few hauntings as well. Stories of apparitions wondering the upper offices, a strange sound here and there, even a strange ghostly presence felt in the elevator. These don’t compare to the sad tale of hearing a woman and her child crying late into the night. As to who she might be, many believe she is a single mother who took her and her child’s life after being evicted during hard times.  Some say she was a prostitute who may have performed her own abortion and bled to death in her room. Whoever this sobbing entity might be, her sadness still echoes through the halls of a past newly restored.

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3rd & Jackson Street in 1931 after the regrade

Late one night, Barbara was driving home around 10 p.m. after a company Christmas party. It was a clear night when she passed Second Avenue on Jackson Street. Right after that, she suddenly slammed on her brakes as a small boy stood in the path of her car. Clearly, she had run over the child. Shocked and in a panic, she quickly jumped out of the car while fussing with her cell phone to call 911. While she was doing this, she proceeded to look around for the injured boy, but there was no sign of him, until she realized his body must be still under her car. At this point, an older man came over to assist her. Fearing to see the condition of the child, she asked with tears in her eyes if the man could look under her car for the body. He proceeded to do so, but there was no child in sight. They both looked around the area but found no child.

Sample of what the streets of Seattle were like in the 1800s

In the 1800s, Seattle suffered from drainage problems, due to being built at sea level. Tidal waters would flood city streets. The rain and plumbing problems didn’t help. With the streets being used by horses and wagons, they developed huge potholes, also known as chuckholes, throughout the downtown streets. These chuckholes where so bad that they continued to fill them with sawdust, which only made matters worse. The mixture of water, soil, and sawdust became a substance similar to quicksand in most areas. To avoid running into these ever-growing obstructions throughout the Seattle streets, the city decided to put them on city maps to guide citizens through the streets more safely.
In early May of 1898, a ten-year-old boy named Joseph Bufonchio was playing at the corner of Third and Jackson in what was known as the Great Jackson Street Chuckhole—it was eight feet deep and sixteen feet wide. The local children loved to play in these large pools of muck. These children would build rafts and push themselves across these miniature lakes by using poles to push them along. In doing so, at 4:30pm Joseph’s pole got stuck at the bottom of the chuckhole, and he fell in and sank to the bottom. This event was such a huge spectacle that up to 2000 voyeurs watched at what was described as a comical event as men clumsily struggled to retrieve the boy’s body. One by one, they fell into the muddy mess as the crowd cheered and laughed. It wasn’t until Joseph’s father arrived and yelled out to the crowd: “It is my poor boy that has been drowned. Have you no regard for my grief?” Just then, silence fell over the great chuck hole. It wasn’t until 6:00pm that they recovered his body, and he was rushed to a local bathhouse, where Dr. Rogers who theorized was that a body could be revived even after it had been in the water for several hours. He worked on the boy’s body until 9:00pm with no success.
After that tragic event, newspapers read, “Boy Drowned in Seattle Streets.” Embarrassed by the incident, the city of Seattle made rules to prevent anyone else from drowning by placing life preservers at all intersections and demanding that all children learn to swim. Could the young boy seen on Third and Jackson be the downed boy, Joseph? Keep an eye out and see.
Extended Story from the Spooked in Seattle Book

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Photo of it Today

Walking into this tavern, a visitor might almost feel like stepping back in time. With its wooden paneling, mounted antlers and fireplace, Canterbury Tavern looks more like an old medieval tavern than a modern pub. The Canterbury Ale and Eats opened in 1972 in what was once the Capitol Hill Food Shoppe, Swift Cleaners in 1937 and Gaslight Café in 1968 to name some of its history. The building itself is the Fredonia Apartment built

in 1937

Back in 1978, a man was shot in the face during a bar fight. No one knows who started the fight or why, but the tragic event took place near the fireplace, where the man eventually died.

Folks accustomed to the ghost living in the Tavern say that he can be seen in the mirror closest to the fireplace. If you look in the mirror, you will soon see a strange man looking down at the ground in the reflection, but this man is nowhere in the bar. They also say that if you look at him long enough, he will eventually begin to look up at you, only to show you that he has no face.

in 1957

Late one night, a bartender was closing up. He shut down the jukebox as always, and then went on to finish his other closing time duties. Naturally, he was surprised to hear the jukebox switch on all by itself, but the strangest thing was the song it played, “The End” by the Beatles. Others have sworn that they have seen the dark figure of a man wanders through the bar only to vanish in front of their eyes.

Inside near the Jukebox

It was also discovered that in the basement area was found a giant pentagram drawn on the basement floor. Employees working there today feel that this could be why they experience many strange events throughout the building.

After hearing these stories, it’s hard not to believe that the past still haunts this tavern. Could this man whom had been killed here be stocking about looking for his killer? Or are we dealing with something more sinister?

Extended Story from the Spooked in Seattle Book

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Recently, Merchant’s Café has had some ghostly activity. It seems their lady of the night has been making her presence known to café guests, employees and visitors on the Spooked in Seattle Ghost Tour that ventures onto these haunted grounds. Some of the strange encounters have included slamming doors, moving objects, restroom faucets that appear to turn on and off without assistance, and the sighting of a full-on apparition.
Constructed in 1890 and designed by W. E. Boone (a direct descendent of Daniel Boone), this café is one of the oldest operating restaurants at its original location in the Seattle area and possibly on the west coast. When it opened its doors as a saloon, they served five-cent beers to miners waiting to visit the upstairs brothel. Gone today are the five-cent drinks and the upstairs working ladies, but the good old café remains the city’s historic gem. Merchants holds onto its rustic, old world charm, with its newly installed Tiffany stained glass chandlers hanging from the original tin pressed ceiling, its exposed brick walls, and a rosewood bar that made its own personal journey through Cape Horn on a schooner in the 1880s.
The rooms of the upstairs brothel are now private apartments, but visitors can continue their exploration of Merchants Café by visiting the underground bar. Tucked away under the sidewalk that was once lit by the purple glass of the old city skylights, sits a bar perfect for that time- forgotten feeling. One can only image what stories this place could tell if the walls could talk, and her story has yet to be told.
The land upon which the building rests was once owned by Doc Maynard, who donated a large portion of land to Henry Yesler. Maynard did this to entice Yesler to build his famed steam- powered sawmill in Seattle. In 1857, Yesler then sold a small portion of this land to Charles Terry, famous for opening the first store on Alki Point in 1851. By 1864, a two-story clapboard structure settled on this site, with a shop on the first floor and a photographer’s studio on the second floor. Here, Seattle’s first resident professional photographer, E.M. Sammis photographed the only known pictures of Doc Maynard and Chief Seattle.

Only photo taken of Cheif Seattle by E.M. Sammis

This two-story structure was destroyed by the Great Seattle Fire in 1889. John Hall Sanderson, then owner of the burnt remains, developed plans for building a brick terra cotta structure for a whopping fifteen thousand dollars. Intentions for this building were to house a wine and liquor shop on the ground floor with offices on the upper floors. This building eventually became Merchant’s Café, but was then known as the Sanderson Block.
By 1892, the building had passed onto Charles Osner, who changed the building’s name to Merchants Exchange Saloon. At this time, the building was operating as a restaurant, hotel, saloon, and a card room. Osner also offered other services for those young men taking a break from the hardships of lumbering in the greatly wooded northwest. Prostitution was a very popular and lucrative past time for a male-dominate city, and Osner took advantage of this by offering a brothel on the third floor. Here men would find pictures of the lovely ladies aligning the saloon walls. If any gentleman requested their services, he would point at one of these pictures and then be directed to her upstairs room.

Franz Xavier Schreiner

In 1898, a year after the gold rush madness, Franz Xavier Schreiner purchased the Saloon. More popularly known as FX, Schreiner gained a small fortune in the Klondike as a supply salesman. FX then added a “Sunday Bank” in the basement where he exchanged cash for miners’ gold dust fresh from the Yukon. Then, he cashed in on the dust with Monday’s bank deposit, collecting as much as $100,000 worth. He continued this until 1910. In fact, the old safe that protected this gold still remains on the property upstairs behind the bar.
By 1916, stricter laws and Prohibition (also known as the dry laws that prevented the selling of alcohol in the state of Washington) caused many bars, taverns and saloons to lock up shop. Owners, who were smart enough, switched over their businesses to restaurants and cafes. Merchants did just that. Here is where we get the name change from Saloon to Café. To drive the point home, FX changed the sign to read “Merchants Café – Cigars and Soft Drinks.”
FX continued his success by secretly paying off local police. By doing so, he continued to offer bootlegged alcohol and illegal gambling in the basement, as well as the pleasure services of a “high class” brothel in the upstairs hotel.
In 1922, it seemed FX was ready for change, and so he sold his café to his son Carl and his nephew John Schreiner for $10 each. He then moved to Los Angeles for the weather and real estate opportunities. By 1926, the sale was completed by including the rest of the building to John who ran the business from 1923 to 1965.
During this time, Merchants also operated as a cigar shop, and the “Havana Cigars . . . Lovera” in stained glass over the entrance is a reminder of that. The basement saw service over the years as a German restaurant (which can still be identified by the brass sign at the top of the downstairs entrance), a Spanish restaurant, a card room and a speakeasy. During the Great Depression, patrons
were offered free food, such as finger sandwiches and hardboiled eggs, with their nickel beers. With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the sign was changed to read, “Merchants Café – Beer and Restaurant.”
The building remained in the Schreiner family until the 1970s. Merchants Café was always famed as the saloon on skid row. By this time, the phrase had double meaning as Pioneer Square was thought of as the slums.  The property passed through many hands and changed as the surrounding atmosphere grew to the historic district that it is today. Now in the hands of Darcy, the new owner has taken much pride in restoring the property and business to its natural beauty. Along with obtaining this historic building, she has inherited its ghosts.

"oriental dancing girl" by Nathaldi Siehel.

On the far back wall hangs the haunted painting known as “oriental dancing girl” by Nathaldi Siehel. This painting strangely revealed its ghostly past to the new owners while being photographed.
Another tale that is told among the employees is that of a little girl and boy that haunt the basement of Merchants. A fire in 1938 struck Merchants and took these young lives. Here, many encounter sights of small shadowy figures lurking about and play games on the staff.
It seems one of the most active areas is the downstairs restrooms. Here, many have reported seeing the apparition of a woman, doors opening and closing, and a woman’s whispering voice into gentlemen’s ears. But the ghost stories and experiences continue on, up to the top floor. In one case, a woman was harassed by a male, ghostly predator.  But most recent encounters include the mysterious lady of Merchants Café.
Some would like to know who this feminine ghostly figure is. Was she one of the working girls featured upstairs? Or is she just someone who hung around the café in the prime of her life? As she continues to pop in and out among the living, witnesses will constantly question their sanity and even her motives. Maybe she is curious about the recent new owners and the positive changes they have made to her haunting environment.
Merchants Café has survived many obstacles like the Gold Rush, Prohibition, the Great Depression, a fire, and even the changing of ownership throughout her 121 years. Today, Merchants Café’s brochures heighten the aura of naughtiness-past by proclaiming, “Only a mere shell of its former decadence, The Merchants now welcomes women and children.”  All are welcome, including the ghosts. If you want to find out more about the ghosts and their stories, maybe stroll through the streets of Pioneer Square and into
Merchants Café with a real ghost hunter on the Spooked In Seattle Ghost Tours.

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The hotel in it last remaining days

Once nestled on the streets in Belltown (2nd Ave & Virginia St.), this hotel was built in 1909 to accommodate the mad rush of gold seekers of the early 1900’s. This historic building was originally known as Hotel Nelson and was designed by Seattle architect William P. White for the Coblentz brothers. In the 1920s, Seattle had a huge hotel boom, during which many luxury hotels were built. Failing to compete, many older properties were forced to convert to apartments or cheaper hotels. At this time, this location became the inexpensive Hotel Wayne. But like most hotels following the Great Depression of the 1930’s, this hotel started its decline into despair, only to be remembered by locals and its last remaining guests as a flophouse. Guest reviews online suggested this place was nothing to be desired, with blood-stained walls, dirty sheets, smelly rooms and bug-infested beds. Plus, locals had complained of shady people and drug deals going on outside the hotel throughout the night. So it’s not surprising what became of it.

Hotel Nelson seen in the background


However, many guests staying at this forgotten hotel spoke of ghost hauntings as well, from things moving, lights turning on and off on their own, to dark figures seen coming down the staircase. With its history of nasty events and questionable guests, it very well may have held onto some negative energy from its long gone past.

Here you can see the lobby as Hotel Nelson

Many locals surrounding the Hotel Commodore were happy to see it come down in 2008 after it sat vacant since 2006.  Plans were to build a six story condo in its place, but due to the economy it remains a parking lot.

Before the building saw its last days, the first floor was boarded up for a few years to prevent any trespassing and vagrants claiming it. Locals living in the area claimed to see strange lights and shadowy figures move across the rooms through the upstairs windows. In fact, these sightings led to calls for the authorities to investigate possible trespassing violations. But when the building was checked over, there was no sign of a living person inside.

(taken from the Spooked in Seattle book)

Here you can see it as Hotel Wayne in the 1920's

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 Guendolen in 1931

Thomas T. Minor

Who Went Missing on Dec 2nd 1889

The Ghost Story:

As told by Guendolen C. Plestcheeff (1892-1994)

On Dec 2nd 1889, my mother was visiting with Mrs. Henrietta Haller, the mother of G. Morris Haller when she mentioned she had witnessed seeing her son earlier that day. “Oh, I just saw Morris, and he was standing there…. with his jacket off” she stated, unaware of the tragedy that had befallen him just hours prior to her encounter.

The Mystery Begins:

In an article for Seattle Met by Nena Peltin

Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods released an eye-opening inventory of 200-plus downtown buildings that might require historic—landmark protection. Here’s one that got away. The G. Morris Haller Building, heaped with Victorian ornamentation in this circa 1905 photograph, yielded 50 years ago to one of Seattle’s first modern skyscrapers. Lost with the building was the memory of its namesake builder, though he was once a rising star on Seattle’s civic and commercial scene.

G. Morris Haller building

George Morris Haller knew danger and adventure from an early age. At 12, he fought at Gettysburg beside his father, Major Granville O. Haller, a renowned (and, today, notorious) Indian fighter who fled to the wild Washington Territory after supposedly insulting President Lincoln and acquired sprawling tracts of land here. With that leg up, Morris Haller climbed fast. He became one of Seattle’s top lawyers, sharing a practice with Judge Thomas Burke, the UW museum’s namesake. Young Haller had vast holdings in seven counties, including nearly 2,000 acres in Seattle. (By contrast, Paul Allen owns about 60 acres here today.) He organized train and utility companies and served as
assistant adjutant general of the Washington National Guard. When anti-Chinese riots broke out in 1886, Haller joined Burke in calming the mob and forestalling a forced expulsion of Seattle’s Chinese immigrants.

It was a time when cities were rebuilt in a year. And fortunes rose and fell in the blink of an eye.

Then, on June 6, 1889, the Great Fire devastated Seattle. Haller and other businessmen saw the chance to replace charred wooden buildings with the sort of brick-and-stone downtown a real city ought to have. He hired Elmer H. Fisher, one of postfire Seattle’s most prolific architects, to design a five-story commercial building at the corner of Second and Cherry.

Soon after construction began, in early December 1889, Haller set out on a duck-hunting trip with Dr. Thomas T. Minor, a physician, civic leader, and public schools advocate (Minor Avenue and T. T. Minor School

are named for him); and Lewis Cox, a 22-year-old apprentice in Haller’s law office who was also his wife Anna’s brother. The three embarked from Stanwood by canoe,  intending to cross Skagit Bay and the treacherous Saratoga Passage to Whidbey Island. They never made it. Search parties found some of their belongings washed up on the frigid shore.

The three embarked by canoe for Whidbey Island. They never made it.

Assuming the trio had drowned, Seattleites turned out for a massive memorial service two weeks later. Local and state dignitaries heaped on accolades, praising Haller’s and Minor’s civic leadership. Anna Haller had lost a brother and, after just a year of marriage, a husband—and still the tragedies piled up. Among the relatives who came to Seattle to offer comfort was Anna’s 14-year-old brother Norman. On January 3, 1890, he went sledding, crashed into a telegraph pole, and died within the hour. That same day, Morris Haller’s badly decomposed body surfaced off Whidbey Island. The newspapers responded with extravagant expressions of sympathy and horror, but Anna was practical: She postponed Norman’s funeral so she could bury them both together the next day. Her brother Edward’s body was found in February on Camano Island; Minor’s was never recovered.

When Haller died, he had already invested $40,000 in his building. His parents spent $20,000 more to complete it and blazoned his name across the cornice. But over the ensuing 34 years they let the building run down. Finally they sold it to the Seattle Title Trust Company. It was demolished in 1957 to make way for the 19-story Norton Building, which stands there still.

A few years after Morris’s death, Anna Haller’s name disappeared from the newspapers and the phone directory. By 1948 only one descendant of Granville O. Haller still lived in town; now none of the Hallers listed in the directory claim any relation to him. Only Haller Lake, which Morris’s brother Theodore named for himself after purchasing land along it, perpetuates the family name in Seattle. (Theodore also erected a fountain dedicated to his father and brother in Port Townsend.)

Had a curse fallen on Morris Haller’s clan? If so, it seemed to reach even his architect Elmer Fisher. After designing much of the city that sprouted up after the fire, Fisher lost his own property in the Panic of 1893. He moved to Los Angeles and died in obscurity in 1905. Few of his many buildings stand today. But one, the magnificent stone-clad Pioneer Building, still dominates Pioneer Square, a Romanesque Revival reminder of a time when cities were rebuilt in a year and fortunes rose in the blink of an eye—and ended with the tip of a canoe.

In Closing:

So is it possible that Guendolen’s mother had seen the ghost of Haller wandering the streets of Seattle? I’m thinking so, maybe he was trying to get word to someone about what had happened that fateful day.

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July 6, 2011 · 3:49 am