Fast Times at the Hotel Emery

Brawls, thefts, scams, and scandals filled the brief life of this downtown hotel.

One of the early hostelries for visitors to Spokane Falls was the Hotel Emery, a two-story brick building on Riverside between Washington and Bernard that opened in 1892. The building's first owner is generally given as F. Lewis Clark, although the obituary of Clark’s father, Jonathan Clark, indicates that he was the formal owner of the property. 

The source of the Emery's name is not recorded, but it may be based on the Emery Hotel in Cinncinnati. The practice of borrowing names from well-known East Coast hotels was relatively common among Spokane hotels in this era, presumably as a way to evoke positive associations for potential guests. A hotel of the same name also operated in Medical Lake at this time, although in this case, it was named after the proprietor, W. W. Emery. 

The Emery was a small hotel, with an office on the ground floor and several guest rooms on the second floor of the building. In 1906, a ‘light, airy, large, clean, and cool’ room at the Emery was $2 to $4 a week, or 50c to $1 if reserved per day. Like many hotels in Spokane at the time, the Emery’s primary clientele was miners, railroad workers, and farmworkers. Newspaper advertisements indicate that it also served as a base of operations for mesmerists, stockbrokers, hypnotists, and practitioners of "magnetic massage." Throughout its lifespan, the Emery appeared regularly in newspapers as the site of brawls, thefts, scams, and scandals. Some of the most notable are discussed below. 

Politicians Behaving Badly (1893)
One of the Emery’s earliest appearances in Spokane newspapers was in September of 1893, when it was cited in a divorce suit against state representative Cornelius F. Westfall. Westfall's wife alleged that he committed adultery in the Hotel Emery on July 2nd and 3rd. Cornelius was far from the last to be accused of using the Emery for extramarital activities, but he was certainly the most prominent. 

Where Is Herbert? (1899)
In 1899, a piano tuner from Chicago named C. E. Herbert was staying at the Hotel Emery with his wife. The Herberts were en route to Chicago from their hometown of San Francisco, a trip intended to allow C. E.’s parents to meet his bride. Because of high water further east, they stayed for a few days in Spokane. C. E. kept busy during their stay by tuning and polishing pianos around town. All was uneventful until he returned to the hotel room one day wearing a suit that his wife had never seen before. When she asked him about it, he made a strange statement to the effect that it was "well enough to change once in a while to throw people off." The next day, C. E. left, taking with him all their valuables in a suitcase. He was never seen again. Citizens of Spokane collected funds to help Mrs. Herbert return home. History does not record whether or not Mr. and Mrs. Herbert met up a few miles outside of town to split the profits from this endeavor.

Saving the Sinful of Spokane (1900)
At the turn of the century, the Hotel Emery hosted an enthusiastic young man named William Morrison. A Yukon miner, Morrison had never previously been particularly faithful until one day he heard a voice informing him that he was a missionary now and his home state of Kansas was the most sinful place in the world. This made sense to Morrison, who set out immediately.

En route to Kansas, Morrison was struck with the revelation that Spokane should be his destination, and changed his travel plans accordingly. After settling in at the Emery, he barged into the downtown office of one Dr. C. P. Thomas and “reeled off a lot of information in a disconnected way,” including thoughts about his mission and about crimes he had apparently committed. Morrison also noted during this recitation that everybody could read his mind, a fact he found troubling.

Dr. Thomas appears to have taken this in stride, but when Morrison returned the next day to give a repeat performance, Thomas discreetly summoned law enforcement. Morrison was taken into custody with a charge of insanity. After several months at the asylum in Medical Lake, Morrison was released on November 22nd of 1900. Records do not indicate whether he ever successfully reached the sinful Sunflower State.

Three Bold, Bad Men (1901)
In 1901, "three bold, bad men" engaged in a multi-hour crime spree in and around the Emery. These three men first arrived at the Emery around 1 a.m. in the company of a fourth man, Harry Darby. They were assigned Room 14 by the clerk on duty, W. M. Haynes. Soon, Haynes heard a disruption on the second floor of the hotel. He went out onto the street to look for a police officer, but finding none, went back inside to investigate.

When he opened the door to Room 14, Haynes found Harry Darby kneeling on the floor and pleading for his life as the other men aimed revolvers at him. Two of them quickly turned their weapons toward Haynes, while the third used the butt of his revolver to beat Darby unconscious. When Haynes protested, one of the bandits fired at him. The bullet passed through Haynes' coat and into the door next to him, and in Haynes' own words, "after that I had no comments to make, as I did not want any more bullets coming that direction."

Under orders from the bandits, Haynes locked the unconscious Darby into Room 14. The foursome then proceeded downstairs to the hotel office. The youngest one declared his intentions to murder Haynes but was stopped by the oldest one, apparently his father, who said "we have done enough shooting for the present." During this time period, Darby awoke upstairs, realized he was locked in, and crawled out through the transom of Room 14. When he went downstairs to the hotel office, he was caught by his assailants and promptly returned upstairs, where they ordered Haynes to lock him into a different room. Darby then passed out and did not wake up until the next morning, when police arrived to question him.

The bandits and their victim were then interrupted by Mr. Dopp, an owner of the Bliss & Dopp candy shop across Riverside. He had heard the disturbance and came to investigate, thereby becoming the second hostage. Dopp and Haynes offered the money from the hotel office to their captors, who declined, indicating that they were out for sport, not cash.

The trio took their hostages across the street to the candy shop and had Dopp let them into the back room. Over the next few hours, they forced their two victims to play cards, drink large amounts of beer, and to obey physical commands such as jumping onto furniture. After such a grueling night, Dopp and Haynes were surprised to find that their abductors lost interest in the games and simply decided to leave. Not long after the trio ambled away down Riverside, Haynes was able to finally find a police officer and report the incident.

Although Haynes, Dopp, and Darby were able to describe the perpetrators to police, none were able to provide names. Darby's assault and his intoxication eliminated most of his memory of his time with the trio, whom he had met only a few days earlier while traveling from Oregon to Spokane. The incident generated outrage, but seems to have generated few leads. If Spokane police looked further into this incident, the results of their investigation were not reported in Spokane newspapers.

Clairvoyant Crime (1906)
Mildred West was a practitioner of "scientific massage and magnetic treatment," Grant Chesterfield was the self-proclaimed "greatest living astral dead-trance clairvoyant of the ages." The two spent over a decade traveling from city to city together, plying their respective trades. Sadly, this productive partnership came to an end in Spokane in 1906.

According to Mildred’s version of events, Chesterfield had been “drunk all week” when the trouble began. He had run out of money and was living on her largesse. While they had lunch at White’s restaurant, only a few doors down from their hotel, he claimed to be ill and excused himself, rejoining Mildred some time later to resume their meal. When Mildred returned to her room at the Hotel Emery, she found her possessions disturbed and discovered that two diamond rings were missing. As everything had been normal when she left, and Chesterfield was in possession of Mildred’s room key when her diamonds disappeared, he was her prime and only suspect. She reported him to the police immediately.

When law enforcement officers caught up with Grant Chesterfield, he was in a downtown "shooting gallery" and had just pawned a diamond ring to the gallery’s owner for $60. The other ring was still on Chesterfield’s finger when he arrived at the police station, and the papers report that he attempted to slip the ring back to Mildred while in custody. It seems, however, that Mildred now saw herself as his victim, not his partner in crime, and was unwilling to help him conceal the evidence. A report on the arraignment notes that there was "no sign of mercy in her countenance."

As Chesterfield was thrown into a jail cell, the Spokane Chronicle jeered: "Why Didn't Grant Read His Own Palm (And Save Himself A Lot Of Trouble Over Diamonds)." If he did read his own palm, perhaps Chesterfield foresaw that this incident would present no more than a mild inconvenience and a measure of celebrity for him. While awaiting trial, he shared a cell with young Sidney Sloane, the Spokane teenager who earned national notoriety by murdering his own father with an axe. Chesterfield used his unique position to freely share anecdotes about Sloane with journalists covering the murder case. We have only Chesterfield's word that young Sidney chose to confide in his con-artist cellmate, but regardless of Chesterfield's trustworthiness, he became a key witness for the state’s prosecution strategy. Two weeks after Chesterfield gave his testimony in the Sloane case, his own charges were completely dismissed. He left Spokane promptly and resumed his career as a "famed seer," with his advertisements (and occasional arrests) appearing frequently up and down the West Coast. Although he would return to Washington State, he seems to have steered clear of Spokane. His visions may have warned him that such a lucky escape was unlikely to happen twice. 

The End of the Emery
Beyond these incidents, the Emery was also home to more prosaic property thefts, fights, and romantic assignations of both the compensated and uncompensated varieties. Although it changed hands several times, with new owners often outlining an ambitious plan to expand and improve the hotel, none of these visions came to pass. The Emery ceased operation as a hotel in 1910, although the signs on the exterior lingered for years afterward and citizens still referred to the building by the Emery name. After a stint as a plumbing company and a furniture store, the building was demolished in 1940. Its former location is now the small parking lot next to the Onion restaurant.

While there’s nothing left to see of the Hotel Emery, nearly all of the other buildings on the block are the same ones that residents of the Emery would have seen when they stepped outside the hotel. The Dessert Block, immediately to the right of the hotel’s former location, was actually built while the Hotel Emery was in operation. Blasting for its foundation damaged the Emery’s wall, pushing it out several inches and separating it from the stairway. Directly across the street are the Robertson Building and the Raznick Building, both built in 1912. To their right is the Morgan Building, which was built in 1909 and was a single-occupancy hotel during the Emery’s heyday. Perhaps next time you admire these buildings, you can spare a thought for their vanished friend, the Hotel Emery. True, it was never the classiest hotel in Spokane, or the safest, or the most structurally-sound... but it was also never boring.