Architect/Builder: C. Ferris White/McVay Builders
In turn-of-the-century Spokane, immigrants not only lived in SRO hotels, but sometimes ran them. This was the case with the Transient Hotel, one of the first Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels built during Spokane’s industrial population boom. The builder, William McVay of the McVay Builders, built the hotel using plans drawn by architect C. Ferris White. Upon opening, the hotel was first run by John Swearingen, a Virginia native about 46 years old. In 1906, Mrs. Minnie Burke was in charge, providing furnished rooms for her guests. The hotel was soon called the Santa Rita and operated by Mrs. Agnes Jacobson. Mrs. Jacobson lived with her husband, John, and their daughter, Anna. The Jacobsons had immigrated from Sweden.
The Transient Hotel is indicative of the typical SRO at the time. The building was a short, two story building made of plain brick, with commercial space on the ground floor, and a stairway leading up to the hotel space. In 1918, the hotel’s name had changed to the First Avenue Hotel. Later, it was called the Bellview Hotel, but was changed back to the First Avenue Hotel at an unknown date. By 1927, the hotel was known as the Bell Hotel and was passed along to Alice McVay’s brother and sisters.
When the building first opened, a single business occupied the ground floor, The Empire State Bowling Alley, followed by the Albrecht Stationary Story, and finally, Standard Heating and Plumbing. By 1928, the space was divided in two. In 1955, Standard Finance Company and Patten’s Pawn Brokers occupied these spaces. Today, this building houses law offices.
Find me! 423 W. First Ave., Spokane, WA
View the Buena Vista and Vallmont Hotel here.
Source: “Transient Hotel.” Historic Properties of Spokane. Spokane Historic Preservation Office. Accessed May 30, 2018. http://properties.historicspokane.org/property/?PropertyID=1958