February 15, 1999
Carey Tremaine is restoring the old Commercial Hotel in Carnation to its original splendor.
Staff photo by Lisa Allen.
by Lisa Allen, Valley View editor
CARNATION--The year was 1913, and timber money was flowing through the Valley like the Snoqualmie River in November. Electricity and the railroad came that year, as well as an increasing number of settlers. In order to accommodate them, local contractors went on a hotel-building binge.
During a two-year period, four hotels were built in Duvall. Carnation had three, including the 28-room Commercial Hotel, now undergoing restoration.
"It was an economic boom time here then," says Carey Tremaine, who has been working to restore the old structure for the past three years. "Profits were coming from the sawmills that were working 12 hours a day. There were dozens of sawmills, and lumber was going for top prices."
But when the Depression hit in the 1930s, it was curtains for the grand old hotel on Tolt Avenue. The town banker ended up with the building, and he remodeled it into apartments that were occupied up until just a few years ago.
Tremaine, a stockbroker for A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc., of Kirkland, says he has always had an avid interest in history and architecture. Although he has restored old cars, this is the first building he has tackled.
The project has been a formidable one and expensive, with almost everything replaced but the old wood, which is all old-growth fir and resistant to rot. But, he says, he probably caught the building just in time and that another ten years would have made it unsalvageable.
"The investment required to bring a business back invariably entails more money than what the market value is when it is done," says Tremaine. "To get it done right and thoroughly is more expensive than building new. But I look at it from a historical standpoint."
Tremaine expects the remodel to cost as much as $400,000.
The longtime Valley resident did receive good news when the building was declared a City of Carnation Historic Landmark in July of 1996, a status that qualified the old hotel for a county grant of $15,000 for a new foundation.
Tremaine said Glenn Cook of Redmond Movers jacked up the building two and a half feet so the new foundation could be poured. "They (Redmond Movers crew) were real pros," he said. "To jack up a two-story frame structure that big was quite an undertaking, but they took it routinely. They actually made it look easy."
But he said landmark status is not the economic boon that some may think. "It is an honor to have it landmarked," Tremaine said. "It ensures the building's survival beyond my ownership. But the reality is that no one gives away money in substantial quantities. It's not a complaint, it's just reality."
Tremaine also credits a revolving loan he received from Valley Community Bank to help with the costs. "The loan is specifically for historic commercial buildings," he said. "King County was instrumental in getting these loans established and it was a significant assistance."
The remodeled building will be ready for tenants this spring, at least for the two apartments on the first floor, said Tremaine.
Tremaine hired Kirkland architect Fred Repass to remodel the rooms, and engineer Robert Bourdages, also of Kirkland, to do the structural restoration.
The building once extended to the sidewalk on Tolt Avenue. That space contained a restaurant and stores and was knocked off in 1932. Tremaine wants to extend the building back out to where it once was, but for the time being, he is saving what used to be the lobby for "sort of a town meeting space or art gallery."
The three apartments on the second floor will take more time to finish, he said, because he wants to retain more of the original flavor of the building. Paint and wallpaper samples from the early days of the hotel were found and saved, as was much of the original molding and woodwork, so the rooms will be decorated in much the same style, Tremaine said. The Roman arches used in the doorways of the hotel are also being reconstructed.
"The arches are a design component of Roman architectural style brought by the Jesuits," he said.
Tremaine says the California Mission architectural style of the building is "horizontal, unadorned, and connected to the earth," as opposed to the vertical style of the Victorian architecture. "The bay windows and stucco exterior give it a lot of character," he says.
Tremaine says he feels connected through the building to its past and the community. He noted that Howard and Marion Miller (Miller's Dry Goods) lived in the front apartment on the second floor in 1939.
"Many people around here either lived here at one time or knew someone who lived here," he said. "It's virtually a crossroads of the local community."