PORT ANGELES — Curious visitors got one last look at the Downtown Hotel in Port Angeles, and many were surprised at what they saw.
Gwen Porterfield of Port Angeles, a member of Soroptimist International of Port Angeles-Jet Set, said Tuesday’s open house was her first as well as her last visit to the 17-room hotel. She said she was unprepared for how immaculate and stately it seemed.
“I was born and raised here and I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. “It’s marvelous. Absolutely marvelous.”
The Soroptimist club arranged an open house with admission by donation to support its scholarship fund.
Dozens of people took them up on the offer to see the hotel’s rooms and hallways.
Numerous visitors commented that the inn was nicer than they expected for such an old building. Roaming through the two floors of the hotel, some were surprised to find that many rooms shared bathrooms off the hall and that other rooms came complete with kitchenettes.
The hotel checked out its last guests Monday in preparation for the building’s demolition to make way for a new $24 million luxury hotel being planned by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. The Cornerhouse Restaurant, which occupied the lower story of the structure, closed Aug. 23.
The D.W. Morse Building, which housed the two businesses, is part of a larger acquisition by the tribe. Also slated for demolition are the buildings that housed the Necessities & Temptations gift shop, Cock-A-Doodle Doughnuts, Harbor Art Gallery and Budget car rental.
Tim Chamberlain, former general manager of the hotel and principle partner in the family-owned company that previously owned the Port Angeles auberge, sat at the front desk in the second-floor lobby Tuesday, answering questions and greeting visitors for perhaps the last time.
He said he had come to grips with the end of an era.
“It’s been a long time coming so I’m very well prepared mentally,” he said. “I’ve been here for 15 years so I’m ready for a change of pace.
“It’s been my home away from home, my job and my hangout. And the most consistent source of my worry and frustration.”
Chamberlain said he was unsure about what would happen to the hotel’s fixtures and furnishings.
“I don’t know, the tribe owns it all now. That’s a question that’s on everybody’s mind.”
Soroptimist member Patty Rosand suggested that some of the furnishings would end up going to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s domestic violence program.
Kathy Estes, executive director of the North Olympic History Center (formerly the Clallam County Historical Society), spent part of Tuesday taking one last look inside the hotel, which opened in 2003 as the descendent of the Hotel Pershing and then the Pershing Rooming House.
She remained philosophical about the demise of the 106-year-old edifice.
“The building is really cool,” Estes said. “I’m sad when old buildings go down, but you can only look at it as ‘it’s the way it is.’
“This was new at one point and people came with a vision for something. And now it’s a vision for something new.”
Soroptomist Jean Hordyke, who arranged Tuesday’s open house, was a bit more melancholy.
“It’s progress,” she said.
“It’s kind of sad, but history happens. It changes all the time.”
Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at [email protected].