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Wednesday, September 17, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Historic hotel readied for renovation

Seattle Times staff reporter

A gentle kind of demo crew is working its way through the floors of the historic Camlin Hotel, carefully removing moldings, pedestal sinks and early-20th century appliances from where they've sat for some 80 years.

Redmond-based Trendwest Resorts bought the 1926-era hotel this summer. Since last month, workers have been stripping the place in preparation for a $7.5 million nearly total renovation.

Their goal is to save some of the signature items, preserve some pieces for the refurbished hotel, sell some items this week and give about $50,000 worth of other items to local charities.

The salvage effort will save Trendwest up to $100,000 in landfill and labor costs, help charities and give the public a chance to buy a vintage piece of Seattle history.

"Our intent is to grab as much of the character of the Camlin and use it," said project manager and architect Stephen Bourne.

The Jacobethan-style hotel was built as an upscale residential hotel by Carl Linde, a well-known German architect. Across the street from the Paramount Theatre, the Camlin hosted its share of celebrities, many of whom roosted at the hotel's 11th-floor lounge, the Cloud Room.

"It was quite a swanky place," Trendwest spokeswoman Sonia Tolbert said. But over time, the grandeur faded, and the hotel was a recognized discount lodging option in downtown Seattle.

Trendwest officials are eager to bring back some of the glamour. The choice items they are saving include the babygrand piano from the Cloud Room and a decorative rooftop fountain. Both will be warehoused in Woodinville until the remodel is complete.

Some won't be touched: The front facade, lobby, Camlin rooftop lettering and the architectural design elements from the rooftop are registered historical landmarks.

Pushing a plastic cart loaded with saws, cords and a pry bar as tall as some adults, Jeff Masson was hunting salvageable items on the third floor.

"I tend to get called in for the finesse-y stuff," said Masson, who has a background in cabinet-making and carpentry. Masson works with RE Sources, a nonprofit organization that salvages and sells building materials and other useful items at its RE Store outlets in Ballard and Bellingham.

Masson was hitting pay dirt at the Camlin: Some of the finds came from 40 kitchenettes that were walled up in 1949. The antique appliances there included several 1924 Hotpoint Automatic Electric stoves, which retail for several thousand dollars each.

Trendwest officials said that they were going to hang onto half the lobby furnishings but were eager to part with some worn reproductions, such as velvet-looking sofas and armchairs, a trio of Oriental rugs, and an oak credenza that didn't pass muster with the interior-design team.

Revamping a historic property is not something Trendwest typically does, but company officials were appreciative of how well the Camlin was built. Bourne said he went through the hotel with a crowbar and hammer to see what he could save.

"They don't make them like this anymore," Bourne said as he opened and closed a closet cabinet.

Trendwest is a worldwide, membership-only resort chain. Members pay upfront for hotel stays, ponying up a $10,000 initiation fee plus a yearly maintenance fee of around $350 to $500. Instead of paying for hotel stays, members spend from an allotted amount of credit.

The company, founded in 1989, has seen its membership grow to 200,000 households. It has 59 resorts and had sales of $453 million last year. Company officials anticipate that the Camlin will be used primarily by Trendwest members from the Pacific Northwest.

Much of the hotel's furniture will be sold at a private sale tomorrow. The rest will be for sale to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Camlin, 1619 Ninth Ave., Seattle. For more information, call 425-576-5656.

Sarah Anne Wright: 206-464-2752 or swright@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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