The Palace Hotel - A Step Back in Time

The Palace Hotel occupies the Captain Tibbals Building. This classic three-story brick building was constructed in 1889 for $28,000 by Henry L. Tibbals, a retired sea captain. Built in the Richardson Romanesque style, the building’s arched windows appear to extend for two stories through the use of twin columns that bracket each window bay on the building’s facade. The Captain Tibbals Building is a beautiful example of Port Townsend’s turn-of-the-century architectural past.

Many buildings in Port Townsend used ballast from the ships for their foundations. This is a print from an original glass negative. Click the image for a high resolution image (575kb). You can see the glass plate has been broken and taped together to make this image. The texture of the three pieces of mending tape is clearly visible in the high resolution image. Having first gone to sea in 1839 at the age of ten, Captain Tibbals was one of Port Townsend’s most colorful residents. During his sea-going years, his more notable exploits included carrying cargo of railroad iron across the Isthmus of Panama and testing the first US. diving bell, using it to retrieve $68,000 in silver from a sunken Spanish frigate in the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Tibbals also had many careers in Port Townsend, serving on the city council and as sheriff, postmaster, and county commissioner. He also built the Union Wharf pictured below.

The first floor of the Captain Tibbals Building originally housed a billiard parlor and saloon known as the Townsend Tavern, while the upper two floors provided furnished rooms for rent. In the early 1900s, The Call newspaper operated out of the building. Over the years, the building has housed an Egyptian theater, the Northern Pacific offices, a grocery store, a state liquor store, a florist shop, and several restaurants. Like many other downtown buildings in Port Townsend, the upper floors of the building were very much under-used for many years.

From 1925 to 1933, the upper two floors of the building were known as the Palace Hotel, affectionately nicknamed “the Palace of Sweets” as they were operated as a brothel and hotel. During this time, the Madame of the house, Marie, occupied the corner suite on the second floor. Her room was richly decorated with plush red wallpaper and deep green woodwork, much as it is today. It had the only fireplace in the building, but it lacked a private bath as there was only one on each of the upper floors. On the third floor there were four, small interior rooms which were lighted from the large stairwell skylight, but had no outside windows. While this type of interior room was quiet common in the building of this era, in the Palace Hotel they served as “cribs” for the “girls”. Following an early morning raid by the sheriff in the mid ~1930’s, the brothel was eventually closed and Marie and the “girls” soon left town. Such is the colorful past of this beautiful building.
A long and tedious restoration of the building began in 1976, with much of the interior renovation completed by 1977 and the exterior restoration completed by 1984. In the spring of 1984, under state and federal matching grants, major foundation repairs were made and the long missing sheet metal cornice was finally restored.
Since being renovated, the building has been home to the Palace Hotel. The hotel occupies the second and third floors, with a lovely restaurant and several specialty retailers located on the main level. The hotel features 19 charming guest rooms and suites, each still bearing the name of one of the “girls”. Each room is uniquely furnished with antiques and collectibles, in keeping with the Victorian character of the building. Most have private baths and several have mini-kitchen facilities. With soaring windows and 14-foot ceilings, each guest room retains the flavor of century-old quality and architectural character so rarely found today.

We welcome the opportunity to share this timeless quality with you.