The Old Davenport Hotel

The Davenport Hotel is, if not the oldest hotel in Spokane, certainly one of the oldest.  At one time it was a grand hotel!  I don’t know why it had deteriorated to the point it had when I was called out to work on it.  For a period of time the shop I was working for was taking care of the electrical, trying to keep it going.

There was a basement to the hotel, and also a sub-basement.  In the sub-basement there was an old air conditioner with water running through a grid.  It was defunct when I began working there.

The electrical tap, off of the city sub-electrical system, was still operating.  It came into the sub-basement from under the street.  The sub-basement was very damp, with water standing on the floor.  I was afraid to leave my tools there overnight, as I was concerned the whole thing might blow up at any time.  I have no idea how they finally corrected the dampness situation.

The basement extended out under the city sidewalk surrounding it.  An old antique elevator went up through the sidewalk to facilitate receiving or removing materials. In the basement there were layers and layers of pipe attached to the ceiling.  The uppermost, top layer was the electrical conduits.  The electrical conduit was connected to open junction boxes with wire sticking out.  It was not possible to fix the open boxes with code worthy wiring methods because the layers of plumbing (sewer, water, gas, steam, air, etc.) kept the boxes out of reach.  The heating system for the hotel was steam.  Valves were located throughout the hotel to regulate the heating.

On the first floor there was a laundry and a sewing room that were no longer in use.  In fact, no one knew the sewing room was there until a wall was removed during renovation.

The most incredible thing about the hotel was the kitchen.  It was decided to remove all the old cooking equipment and install new equipment.  The existing units were made of cast iron and had never been moved from the time the kitchen was first installed.  When the cast iron equipment was removed they workers found a buildup of hardened grease up to 18 inches deep.

Working on all the equipment was an education in itself.  When the electrical inspector came down to inspect my work, I pointed out to him that there were wires lying across a steam pipe.  I told him I hadn’t done that.  Then I pointed out open junction boxes.  I said I couldn’t reach them to fix them.  He commented that it was pretty bad but made no further comments.

Later on I learned that in the Davenport’s “Hey Days”, the inspector I conferred with had been the building electrician.

Over the years since the Davenport Hotel was first built, many codes – both electrical and building standards – have changed.

Recently the Davenport has been restored and remodeled to a five star hotel.

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