Students Document Edgewater Hotel’s Rock History
By Becky Kramer
Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel has a storied place in rock and roll history. Since the Beatles’ 1964 visit during their first North American tour, the hotel has been associated with a long list of artists.
“The Beatles kicked it off, and Led Zeppelin made the Edgewater infamous,” said Bob Peckenpaugh (‘03 Hotel & Rest. Admin.), noting the band was twice banned from the hotel for antics that included mudsharks in their suite and throwing furniture into Elliott Bay. “There are so many stories, so many bands, and so much rock and roll lore.”
When Peckenpaugh was hired as Edgewater’s general manager in 2016, a handful of employees with first-hand accounts of the bands’ raucous heyday at the hotel remained, but they were nearing retirement age.
To capture that history, Peckenpaugh enlisted the help of Mark Beattie, associate vice chancellor at WSU Everett and assistant professor of hospitality business management for the Carson College of Business. Beattie worked with Brett Atwood at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication to set up an independent study for students to collect and archive information.
Over five years, WSU Everett students created an Edgewater repository with more than 3,000 files. The archive contains old photos, playbills, advertisements, employee interviews, news articles, and video clips.
“The archive is a ‘Who’s Who’ of the entertainers who came through Seattle,” said Atwood, a scholarly associate professor and former music industry writer.
Some of the material—including articles about the Beatles’ visit and footage of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain—was featured in a mini-documentary prepared for the Edgewater’s 60th anniversary this year. In the future, archived materials could be used for brand marketing, employee training, or even academic research.
“This is where rock stars stayed and groupies hung out,” said Lindsey Kirschman (’18 Comm.), corporate marketing coordinator for Noble House Hotels, the Edgewater’s parent company. “We don’t want that authentic part of our history to be lost to time. Without that context, the Edgewater would just be another Pacific Northwest lodge hotel.”
Bands and groupies
For Riley Gilbertson (’19 Hosp. Busi. Mgmt.), the independent study brought together two of his interests: music and hospitality. He spent a summer researching the Edgewater, digging into Seattle newspaper archives from the early 1960s through 1970.
The work took him deep into the music of his parents’ era. “They grew up in Seattle, and they remember when the Beatles came to town,” Gilbertson says. “Besides understanding what was happening in Seattle in the ‘60s, the project allowed me to connect with family memories.”
During the height of Beatlemania, other Seattle hotels balked at hosting the Beatles. Too much security and insurance was involved. But the Edgewater’s general manager stepped up.
Gilbertson uncovered accounts of screaming fans descending on the property, hoping to spot band members through a chain link fence surrounding the hotel. While a decoy limousine approached the Edgewater, the Fab Four were secreted to the hotel in the back of an ambulance.
The Beatles’ 1964 visit also produced the iconic photo of the band fishing from their room. At the time, the Edgewater had a bait and tackle shop for guests.
“The Beatles stayed less than 24 hours during that first visit, but there are so many stories,” said Peckenpaugh, who left the hotel in 2020, but remains interested in the project.
Gilbertson’s research also uncovered visits to the Edgewater by the Monkees, Dave Clark 5, and the Beach Boys. As the hotel’s reputation among musicians grew, its star-studded guest list expanded to include the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, Black Sabbath, Emmylou Harris, and others.
Some of the side stories fascinated Gilbertson. “One article described how a young man sporting flip-over hair similar to the Beach Boys got mobbed by fangirls outside the Edgewater,” he says. “They were quite disappointed he wasn’t part of the band.”
Part of Seattle’s nightlife
Besides hosting big name bands, the Edgewater had its own musical venue, the Crown Terrace Room. “It was an important contributor to Seattle’s night life, and it booked a diverse group of musicians and other entertainers,” says EJ Olsen (‘19 Strat. Comm.), who also worked on the research.
Jazz singer Sarah Vaughan and singer and actress Eartha Kitt were among the notable Black artists who performed at the Edgewater during the 1960s.
“When you consider everything that was happening with the Civil Rights movement, this was very forward thinking for a club atmosphere in a fine hotel,” Beattie said.
Students who participated in the independent study were either communication or hospitality business management majors.
At the end of five years, their archival collection covered nearly four decades of hotel history—from Edgewater events featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s society pages to a student report on socially conscious themes in the Pearl Jam suite’s concert posters.
Maddy Cone, the final student involved, curated vintage photos and video footage from the project for the Edgewater’s mini documentary. The timing was serendipitous for Kirschman, who had just started a marketing job at Noble House Hotels.
“It was taking me forever to locate source material,” she says. “When I found out WSU Everett students had created an Edgewater archive, it was the biggest win imaginable. Maddy was able to pull these really big names from the archive for us.”
“I love rock history, and I knew a lot of the bands,” says Cone, a hospitality business management major. “Contributing to the documentary was a perfect way to wrap up the independent study.”
Beattie hopes the video is the first of many projects to tap material from the collection.
“The students built this trove of information now available for the Edgewater’s use and for scholarly purposes. I would love to see a music historian—perhaps someone from the university—delve into it.”