Monday, September 14, 2009
Belltown's Fantastic City Hostel!
I grew up during the darkest stretch of seventies. Back then, it seemed like nothing would ever be brought right. The decade played host to war, corruption, financial, energy and international crises, Richard Nixon, terrible fashions and even worse hairstyles. It always paid to bet short on any venture and anticipate any plan going awry. It was tough to look at the positive side of anything. And thus, doling out effusive praise is something fairly alien to me, but let me come right out and say this: the City Hostel Seattle is the best thing to happen to Belltown in more than a decade. It is a marvelous place that simply must be seen to be believed. The cumulative effect of artwork from more than 40 artists is nothing short of amazing. Sure, some rooms are far better than others, but the overall impression just leaves you completely astounded. The variety of the art is pretty staggering. Styles and abilities vary wildly throughout the building. You have graffitists, conceptualists, stencilists, traditionalists, non-traditionalists, low-brows, cartoonists and a host of others in all but four of the hostel’s 51 rooms.
The building began life at 2nd & Battery as the Hotel Lorraine in the twenties, playing host to the day’s movie stars and screening films for visiting theater owners. The Plymouth Housing Group bought it in 1986 and rechristened it the William Tell, which is what I call it to this day. Its tenants seemed to be almost exclusively older middle-aged men. In 2007, Plymouth shut it down and moved out. For more than a year, it stood boarded up and empty until Lee Kindell and Nancy Gambin saw brave new possibilities in it. Their vision merged with financing and the hostel was in the works. Renovation took more than six months, but now it’s been open for business since mid-August. Last Friday the 11th was the first chance for the general public to have a look at it from top to bottom.
Like I said, some of the artwork is great; some is not-so-great. There are also some rooms that are downright creepy. But it’s just such a gargantuan creative effort that I’m positive people will come from far and wide just to spend the night in this crazy place. When I was there, it was packed to the gills with people. To highlight the carnival-like atmosphere, there was a guy out front doing fire stunts:
And people across the street cautiously looking on:
Let’s get a look at some of the better rooms:
This is the floor of one an office off the main lobby.
Room #114 by Ariel Automne.
Room #208 by Augie Pagan.
Room #210 by Hera.
Room #214 by Corby Baker.
Room #216 by Johnny O'Brady - one of my favorites.
Room #217 by John Osgood.
Room #218 by SOULE.
Room #300 by Redd Walitzki. Warning: artistic nudity!!! Oops, too late...
Room #306 by Bill Hinker.
Room #308 by Chris Sheridan.
Room #310 by Weirdo.
Room #311 by Mat Savage.
Room #312 by Joey Nix.
Room #318 by Joe Vollan.
Here are some rooms that are only for the brave:
If you survive the night, consider yourself lucky.
If this isn’t enough for you, you can take a virtual tour of most of the rooms right here.
Despite a few inferior works, I am completely bowled over by this place. My neighborhood pride has been long-dormant. In fact, I started this blog, as the title suggests, to show off just how ugly Belltown is. But with the addition of the hostel, my derision is suspended - albeit temporarily. I know that this is what Belltown is supposed to be about. I’m very proud of this new edition to the neighborhood and I commend Kindell and Gambin for bringing it to life.
Read more of Hideous Belltown!