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Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Nonprofit group set to purchase historic Cadillac Hotel

Seattle Times staff reporter

The deal has closed to purchase the Cadillac Hotel, a uniquely historic Pioneer Square building that could tell thousands of stories but needs millions of dollars in repairs.

After the February 2001 Nisqually earthquake, the owner of the hotel announced intentions to demolish the 113-year-old building. But Historic Seattle, a nonprofit group committed to saving the city's architectural past, has stepped in and bought the property for $2 million, $1.5 million of which will be financed by seller Goodman Financial Services.

Although word of an impending sale leaked out last February, the acquisition did not become official until Historic Seattle secured the building's ground-floor and basement tenant — the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, which is run by the National Park Service.

The museum currently operates out of leased space two blocks away.

In a previous life, the hotel provided lodging for prospectors who came to Seattle in hopes of getting rich during the Alaska gold rush.

The Cadillac, one of the first buildings to rise from the ashes of the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, has sat forlorn on the corner of Second Avenue South and South Jackson Street ever since the 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit the city.

Missing many of its red bricks and cordoned off by a fence, it looked like the end of the line for the Cadillac.

It was one of 25 structures built within six months after the 1889 fire that destroyed much of Seattle's downtown. Only eight of those 25 still stand.

"Before the earthquake hit, the Cadillac had much of its original 1889 fabric intact," said Heather MacIntosh, Historic Seattle's preservation advocate.

The 56-room hotel was typical of inexpensive boarding houses. Many of its residents were single men, unskilled laborers who arrived in Seattle in search of work.

Once renovated, Historic Seattle hopes to lease the upper two floors of the Cadillac as office space, with the Park Service occupying some of it, said Mark Blatter, director of real-estate development.

The lease with the Park Service will include an option to buy the property as part of a long-range plan to develop a Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Pioneer Square, Blatter said.

But first, Historic Seattle has to finance an estimated $5.6 million, on top of the purchase price, to rehabilitate the structure.

Architectural designs are to be completed in February, with construction expected to begin next summer with the relocating the following spring.

Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or seskenazi@seattletimes.com.

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