Before Seattle was at the epicenter of business and technological innovation, it was a hub for mining, fishing, and logging. About 100 years ago, throngs of workers would come back home to the city’s center for a drink and conversation after spending long hours outside. And one of the favorite spots for get-togethers a century ago still exists downtown: the Arctic Club.
In 1916, the Arctic Building, as it was known then, opened for business. And ever since, the nine-story structure on 3rd Avenue and Cherry has remained one of the Emerald City’s most cherished gems. The splendid terra cotta exterior is rich with detail, including a wonderful, elaborate walrus carving hanging in the walkway above the front door. The entrance opens up into a grand hallway lined with black-and-white photos of past club members along its entry walls.
If you go a little further into the hull of the hotel, you’ll find the Polar Bar, which has been fostering conversation for the past century. This is the room where ship captains, traders, gold miners, local heavyweights and the like got together to do business and imbibe. And, today, the room maintains that same air. The cozy interior combined with the historic dark oak bar and fireplace make the lounge inside feel almost like a portal into a bygone era before internet and TV screens.
But the most spectacular sight is on the second floor. Proceed up the stairs from the lobby, walk down a corridor, and you’ll soon come to the Northern Lights ball room. Over this event space is a beautiful leaded-glass dome, about 60 feet in diameter, complete with a chandelier at the center. The dome room, often used for weddings, was also featured in the climactic scenes of Stephen King’s “Rose Red” TV mini-series.
Despite everything changing around it, the Arctic Club has maintained its original aesthetic even after modest renovations by the DoubleTree Hotels, which now owns and operates the building. And folks still often wander in to take a seat at the bar, flanked by the room’s mascot—a giant white replica polar bear—to have a stiff drink or satisfying meal.
Update as of July 31, 2023: The Arctic Club and the Arctic Bar are open. Ask the bartender and they’ll happily show you the ballroom.