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Originally published February 22, 2013 at 10:00 AM | Page modified February 22, 2013 at 2:48 PM

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Westlake Avenue cuts Seattle blocks on the diagonal

The date of this pie-shaped half-block of Westlake Avenue between Pike and Pine streets is likely 1908.

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WESTLAKE AVENUE was first surveyed in January 1905 — that part of it made the first cut through the existing city grid between Pike Street and Denny Way. By November 1906 the new thruway was paved and being developed on all sides — and the new sides were many.

Through the roughly seven blocks of cutting, nearly 30 odd-shaped building lots and flatiron blocks were exposed, adding imaginative opportunities for cityscapes and developers. With its path to Lake Union and its eccentric new sides, Westlake was popularly, although not officially, called a boulevard.

Resembling most obviously a ship, here the American Hotel points its bow north between Westlake Avenue, on the right, and the alley between Fourth and Fifth avenues. The photograph was recorded from the Hotel Plaza, built one floor higher than the American, and set snugly between Westlake, Fourth Avenue and Pine Street above its own wedge-shaped footprint.

With its 70 "reasonably priced" rooms — $3.50 and up for a week — the American expected to service many transient salesmen. But the hotel had troubles, changing hands twice before it was renamed Hotel Central in 1914, to make a clear point of its location. Frank Crampton, the new proprietor in 1910, made thorough renovations. The Seattle Times reported that "undesirable tenants" vacated 23 rooms "within three days after he assumed charge."

At its farthest southern end, the American Hotel was attached to Northern Bank and Trust Company's also new corner at Fourth and Pike. The bank soon added five stories to reach the height it holds in Jean Sherrard's "repeat." The bank failed in 1919. Another bank, the Seaboard, took hold and named the ornate landmark "at the center of everything."

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard's blog at www.pauldorpat.com.

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