At the turn of the century, thousands of Spokane workers lived in hotels much like this one. Built in 1910, the Hotel Upton was a Single Room Occupancy Hotel (SRO). Typical of SROs at the time, the Upton's 102 units had a sink and a wardrobe. Of the 102 rooms, only 15 had private bathrooms. Not uncommon for the time, those who were not lucky enough to have a private bath used the public facilities that were located on their respective floor. Out of necessity the building has been upgraded from its electric lighting and steam heat, but the original dark wainscoting and the hinged transom windows, which increased air circulation, can still be seen throughout the building. The hotel provided short term and permanent housing for the workers who came to labor in Spokane's expanding industries. By the 1920s, an SRO could be found on practically every block in the heart of Spokane.
A local investor, Andrew Laidlaw, built the four-story, red brick hotel for $50,000. Prominent architect, L.L. Rand, who worked as an architect in Minneapolis before moving to Spokane in 1888, was hired to design the building. A project in the 1990's exposed original prism-glass transoms and canted entries that had been covered up for decades. Along with a pronounced entrance, terra cotta lintels with projecting keystones head the spectacular windows.
This building has had a long and varied career. In 1933, the name was officially changed to the Grand Coulee Hotel. Like most SROs, the Upton has been home to a diverse range of businesses on the ground floor, many catering to its working class occupants including grocery and hardware shops as well as coffee houses.