The Louisa Hotel: 2020 Community Investment Award

Congratulations to the Louisa Hotel Project Team!

Owners: Yuen G Woo LLC (Woo family), Gaard Development
Partners: Chase Community Equity; First Federal; Barrientos Ryan; Rolluda Architects; DCI Engineering; Marpac Construction; Chinn Construction; Gemma Daggatt Interior Design; Northwest Vernacular

About the project:

The Louisa Hotel, a contributing building to the Seattle Chinatown National Register Historic District and the International Special Review District, was built in 1909 as a single occupancy (SRO) hotel with ground floor retail. Designed by Andrew Willatsen and Barry Byrne, disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright who worked in his Chicago studio at the turn of the century, the hotel first housed Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino immigrants while they waited for work in Alaskan canneries.

The building was once home to a casino, a jazz club, and Seattle’s first Chinese bakery – but this history was threatened by both the passing of time and by disaster.

The Louisa Hotel’s top floors were vacant for over 50 years. It had been too expensive to bring them up to code, as is the case with many buildings in the Chinatown-International District. On Christmas Eve in 2013, a fire broke out which burned the roof and compromised the western half of the building. With the mortar in the brick damaged

by the fire, the unreinforced masonry wall along Maynard Alley was in danger of collapse and became a threat to public safety. Furthermore, some of the building’s interior had collapsed onto itself.

The restoration project began by stabilizing, demolishing, rebuilding, and replicating the fire-damaged western side of the building. Just stabilizing the building took two years. The team then worked to preserve the Louisa Hotel’s façade and extensively renovate the eastern half of the building.

The restoration complied with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The team preserved the feel of the hallways by removing, refinishing, and reinstalling the historic doors, which still carry the shadow of their original unit numbers. The team paid close attention to detail when restoring the building’s character-defining features, such as the original wood trim, picture rails, leaded glass windows, and bay windows.

Notably, Prohibition era murals from the jazz club (shown here) were also discovered and restored. Furniture and other artifacts salvaged from the Louisa Hotel before demolition have been returned and put on display.

But the building is more than just brick and mortar. True to its origin as affordable workforce housing, the Louisa Hotel reopened with 84 units of affordable workforce housing for individuals and families earning between $35,000 and $80,000 per year. In June of 2019, the building opened its doors to new residents for the first time in over 50 years – and not a moment too soon.

We are proud to recognize the Woo family and Gaard Development with the Community Investment Award for their restoration of the Chinatown-International District’s historic Louisa Hotel.