Back when the Stranger was still assigning me stories (just never running them), I researched the long and convoluted history of the Eitel Building at Second and Pike. Mr. Savage believed it might be cool to have a story about what he described as “Seattle’s only downtown slum” or words to that effect.
I’d first come to know the 1904-built midrise medical-office building (it was called “the 2nd & Pike Building” by the 1980s) as the storefront home to Time Travelers, a record and comix shop that was a vital early punk-scene hangout.
At the time I researched that later-killed Stranger piece, its then-owner wanted to demolish it for the usual Exciting New Office/Residential/Retail blah blah blah.
But shortly afterward, in 2006, the city slapped landmark status on it, against the owner’s wishes.
At the height of the real estate bubble a few years back, Master Use Permit boards appeared on it proclaiming an imminent 16- to 22-story structure that would incorporate the Eitel’s outer facades but nothing else. That, obviously, never happened.
But now, just weeks before Target opens in the Newmark megaproject across the street, new developers announced a new scheme.
The Eitel will remain intact on the outside, with a “boutique hotel” opening inside sometime in 2014.
But to me it will always be what I’ve always known it to be—one of the last major surviving, un-gentrified remnants of what the Pike Place Market and surrounding blocks to be like. A hard, scruffy place whose “original elegance” had long since settled into comfy sleaze.
The Eitel’s storefronts and basement spaces have held a wide variety of uses over the decades, few of them frou-frou.
There was the original practice space for Ze Whiz Kidz, a pioneering gay cabaret troupe. There was the needle exchange. There were several indie and local-chain fast food outlets, including the current longstanding Osaka Teriyaki.
What there wasn’t was anything on floors 2 through 7. The upper floors have been boarded up since at least 1978. Even the occupied parts have had little in the way of basic upkeep.
The one major change to the exterior cladding was a black faux-deco treatment, done some time in the 1970s and not in keeping with its original appearance.
But that just made it a more lovable little victim of neglect.
Nice to know it will survive, even if it’s not as the funky place I’ve known.