If the Winslow Hotel ever gets built, it won’t be the first time a downtown lodging establishment has carried that name.
And it won’t be the first time a downtown hotel has courted controversy, as well.
A review of historical records on Bainbridge Island, and Kitsap County, show that Winslow had a hotel on its main street during the same year Winslow got on the map.
And like the proposal for its current counterpart, the original Winslow Hotel was anchored at one end of the town’s main drag. And the impact of the hotel on the town had some prominent folks worried.
Bainbridge developer Mike Burns and his company, Madison Avenue Development, have proposed an 87-room hotel with spa, restaurant and bar for a two-lot property on the west end of Winslow Way. Called the Winslow Hotel, the project has been reviewed by the city’s Design Review Board and planning commission, and is now awaiting a recommendation by Bainbridge’s planning chief before it goes to the city’s hearing examiner for a final decision.
More than a hundred years ago, though, there was another Winslow Hotel.
The first Winslow Hotel was built in 1903. (That’s also the year when Ford Motor Company got its start, and the first box of Crayola crayons was made. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was president; Bob Hope was born. Think Wilbur and Orville Wright, airplane, Kitty Hawk.)
Winslow wasn’t Winslow before 1903. It was called Madrone, but the move of the Hall Brothers Shipyard to Eagle Harbor from Port Blakely prompted popular support for changing the small farming community’s name from Madrone to Winslow, in honor of Winslow Hall, one of the founding brothers of the shipyard.
Hall Brothers bought 77 acres along the northern shore of Eagle Harbor, and ground was broken on July 6, 1902 for what historians said “create[d] the general impression that this was the beginning of a new era.”
Madrone, newly Winslow, was a farming community and an outlying post on the island when compared to Port Madison (the original county seat) to the north.
Few buildings lined what’s now Winslow Way, and most were built on the north side of the road. The other side of the road, now anchored by Town & Country was empty except for a creeping tangle of blackberries and other shrubs, and, next to the shore, picnic grounds and a pavilion, and two Native American camps.
On the west end of new Winslow, the dominant building was the same from Madrone times: Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, raised in 1896.
Most of the development was on the town’s west end and south of the church, and on the east side of Madrone, the town was split by a deep gulch where Highway 305 now runs through Winslow. To get from one side to the other, people had to scale the steep sides of the gulch before a bridge was built across the ravine — sometime around 1910 — that joined the two ends of town.
The arrival of the shipyard brought industry to Winslow.
“The yard proper consisted of 15 acres of the 77-acre site,” according to the description of the shipyard in “Kitsap County – A History,” by the Kitsap County Historical Society. “The site was partially cleared, plowed, leveled, and construction began. About $300,000 was invested in transferring and erecting the yard. It was a much larger yard than the one at Port Blakely. In fact, it was the largest on the Pacific Coast … The fact that the site for it was an Indian camping ground and later a picnic place for all of Puget Sound with a pavilion was soon forgotten in the rush of shipbuilding.”
The shipyard built five-masted schooners, and evolutions of the company with different owners stretched to 1959. In World War II, it was estimated that the company had as many as 2,300 workers: steel minesweepers were the order of the day.
According to “Kitsap County – A History,” the influx of shipyard workers prompted the need for a hotel in Winslow.
Hotels and lodging houses were common in the early 1900s throughout the growing Puget Sound. According to an October 1905 issue of the Seattle Star newspaper, there were 588 hotels and lodging houses in Seattle alone.
The Winslow Hotel was built by the Hemrich Brewery in Seattle, on property on the opposite side of the street from Winslow’s current police station.
“They felt it wold have a large business because it was near the shipyard,” wrote Elsie Frankland Marriott in “Bainbridge Through Bifocals.”
And that was a problem.
“It had a beautiful bar and mirror,” the book “Kitsap County – A History” noted of the hotel, adding, “But the Hall Brothers did not believe in liquor for their workers (remember, at that time liquor was an issue).”
Marriott recalled that the hotel was rented the year after it was built to Mrs. Margaret Bradley and Mrs. Katherine Clements. The two sisters “became the new proprietors. These ladies remodeled the hotel and made a wash room where the workers could clean up before sitting down to eat.
“A path led from the hotel to the shipyard. Some workers lived in the hotel, but at lunch time most of the men ate at the hotel whether they lived there or not.
“When there was a big job at the shipyard, the hotel was not large enough to take care of all the men. The men would have to rent rooms from the townspeople. But they would eat at the hotel. No one commuted in those days,” Marriott added, “as the steamer service was too inconvenient.”
The sisters bought the hotel in 1915, according to “Kitsap County – A History.”
They remodeled the hotel “with a wide porch in front. Their food was excellent and soon their rooms were filled with men from the shipyard.”
The Winslow Hotel was long gone by the time Winslow incorporated as a town in 1947.
The hotel burned to the ground in 1924 and was not rebuilt; development in the area had ground to a near halt between the 1920s and 1930s.
The Winslow Hotel was one of four hotels on Bainbridge at the turn of the century; joining the Port Madison Hotel, the Port Blakely Hotel and the Pleasant Beach Hotel.
At the time, Pleasant Beach was the big tourist attraction on Bainbridge, with six boats arriving daily bringing visitors from Seattle. Called the “Coney Island of Puget Sound,” it had a dance pavilion, heated saltwater swimming pool, and a bowling alley.
The Pleasant Beach Hotel had rooms for 40 guests and a dining room that served as many as 2,000 in a day, according to Katy Warner’s “A History of Bainbridge Island.”