Gargoyle #11

Note: This post was originally published on my personal website, Just Wondering. Some of the links go to that website. In particular, those links referencing the “hunt” post to which this post is the solution, link to Just Wondering instead of back to the home page here on GSGH.

Executing his second disruption of the four-win Issy/James dynasty, Pedro has identified the location of the eleventh gargoyle in the Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt. Here’s the contest image:

Gargoyle #11

It’s hard to slip a hotel gargoyle past Pedro, so familiar is he with Seattle’s hostelry, and this gargoyle and its twin adorn the Fourth Avenue entrance of the Olympic Hotel, as Pedro has correctly claimed.

They call it the Fairmont Olympic these days. The lions serve as flagpole bases and can be seen just above the 422 bus in the lower right corner.

Of course, it’s not called the Olympic anymore, but that’s what it opened as in 1924 on the site of the original University of Washington. I believe the University still owns the land underneath. has a great piece on “the grande dame of Seattle hotels” so I won’t repeat it all here, but one interesting thing I would point out is that the reason the hotel is shaped the way it is, with two large wings embracing a deep recess on the University Street side, is that it was built around the old (1911) Metropolitan Theater. Together they looked like a great Dane holding a chew toy between its paws. When that older, smaller building was demolished, voila! the drive-up entrance to the hotel was created. My guess is that this belioned entrance on Fourth was the main entrance until then. If you know, please tell us.

Like history’s antimatter, the solid enough Metropolitan Theater, right, sits surrounded mostly by empty air, determining the footprint of the future Olympic Hotel. Decades later this same view would show the empty space of the drive-up entrance surrounded by the mass of the hotel. Compare with the first color image below. Image c. 1918 property of Museum of History and Industry.

Demolition, 1956. Surrounded by the expanding hotel, the Metropolitan Theater throws in the towel. Image property of Museum of History and Industry.

The Metropolitan stood in the recess between the wings, directly above the white car passing.

“America’s most spectacular hotel entrance” on its opening day, 27 August 1957. Dig the carefree lettering of the hotel’s name…how can such bantam signage carry such a massive structure? This is where the Metropolitan stood. Image property of Museum of History and Industry.

The spectacular entrance today.

I have only a little personal history with this building. My folks came down here once or twice to participate in an annual Viennese Waltz Ball. They loved to get dressed up and go dancing, and they splurged a time or two to be numbered among the hotel’s overnight guests, which include a president (John F. Kennedy), a King (Elvis), a Duke (John Wayne), Joan Crawford (Joan Crawford), a crown prince and princess (Akhito and Michiko of Japan) a boss (Jimmy Hoffa) and an emperor (Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, who visited in 1954).

Mara and Gwyneth basking in holiday excitement at the Olympic a few years ago.

There’s a room in the hotel that gets decked out with teddy bears of all sizes and styles every year during Christmas, and ever since Mara and her friend Gwyneth were three or four we’ve taken them there to flop around in the Teddy Bear Suite and read teddy bear books. In time, Gwynnie’s little brother Coren was introduced to this tradition, as more recently was our own wee thing Millie. We usually go downtown and eat dinner, hit the TBS, and then take a spin on the carousel that comes to Westlake Park for the holidays.

I’ll leave you with one other photo I took showing the flagpole bases at closer range. Congratulations again, Pedro, and thanks for playing!

The Olympic Hotel’s western entrance on Fourth Avenue. The lions hold up the awning and anchor the flagpoles.

One response to “Gargoyle #11

  1. Pingback: Gargoyle #11 | The Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt

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