• History 1


Fairmont Olympic Hotel is a storied landmark and iconic fixture of Seattle society. A classic gathering place in the heart of the city, it was and still is a place to see and be seen, offering visitors, dignitaries, and Seattle locals an exquisitely designed stage from which to stay, connect, and experience the Emerald City.

The interior front entrance of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle.

An Educational Start

The land where The Fairmont Olympic Hotel stands was initially deeded by Arthur Denny in 1861, back when it was the original site of the University of Washington. Later in 1911, a theatre known as the Metropolitan Theatre was built on the site after the university outgrew its home and moved location. A decade later, a proposal was made to build a grand hotel that would wrap around the theatre on three sides, taking up the entire city block.

History 2

A Presidential Favorite

With the stock market crashing in late 1929, The Olympic, like many hotels nationwide, suffered for business. Still, people on the go always needed places to stay, including politicians hot on the campaign trail.

On September 20, 1932, a train pulled into town bearing Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Democratic nominee for President. Roosevelt was driven to the Olympic as thousands cheered in the streets and threw confetti from the windows above. The crowd outside the hotel’s main entrance was so large that the Governor slipped in through the staff entrance on 5th Avenue, where he surprised soup cooks, busboys, and chambermaids coming off the freight elevator before making it to his suite. Meeting the next day with civil leaders and delivering a speech to a packed house at the Seattle Civic Center, he later returned in September 1937 as President with his wife Eleanor, during which The Olympic Hotel became command central for the President’s staff and headquarters to the number of press reporters that followed him on his travels.

History 5

A Cultural Touchstone

The year 1960 saw another Presidential campaign, along with visits to the hotel by Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. But neither the vice president nor the senator from Massachusetts could compare to Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko of Japan, who toured the United States to commemorate the centennial of the first trade and friendship treaty between the two countries. The Imperial Highnesses arrived in Seattle on October 4, 1960, and thousands turned out to witness a rare visit by Japanese royalty.

Throughout 1961, most people were preoccupied with construction just north of downtown, especially the Space Needle towering above it all. Businesses throughout the city started getting ready for the millions of visitors expected for the upcoming Seattle World’s Fair—known as Century 21—that opened on April 21, 1962. Only a few weeks after the fair opened, The Olympic Hotel was bursting with celebrities, such as a visit from President John F. Kennedy, who was celebrating Senator Warren Magnuson’s 25th year in Congress. In 1968, one of the largest campaign crowds gathered in University Plaza to see Presidential nominee Richard Nixon. More than 5,000 people jammed the street to hear the candidate talk from a speaker’s platform in front of the entrance.

History 3

A New Chapter in Seattle History

As the 1970s began, The Olympic continued to host royalty, officially being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Soon, preparations began for a major restoration project that would close for some time.

Before closing for remodeling, calls flooded the front desk of The Olympic from people wanting old room keys as a keepsake. Charity groups were given keys for fundraising purposes, but an estate sale offered anyone who wanted to own part of the hotel an opportunity. On October 16, 1980, the large estate sale—even for Seattle standards—opened for business as the hotel sold off just about everything, including the doors to the guest rooms. Within weeks the building was picked clean, except for the original 1920s chandeliers in the lobby. After a $62.5 million entire restoration, The Olympic re-opened for business on Sunday, May 23, 1982, and continues to be an iconic presence at the epicenter of the city.

History 4

Seattle’s Great Beauty, Reborn

In 2020, we worked with Spanish design studio Lázaro Rosa-Violán (LRV) to conduct the largest renovation to Fairmont Olympic hotel in 40 years, evolving our magnificent landmark building for the current era and future of hospitality. Designed for today’s traveler, this $26-million transformation completely reimagined our arrival experience and grand lobby, bringing new life to the storied Olympic atmosphere. We created buzzing social spaces and added a new circular Olympic Bar, transformed our grand dining room into its current life as The George, and added Founders Club, our tribute to the speakeasy culture of the 1920s.

History 6


Legendary luxury and service. From helpful information on transportation and accessibility to details on hotel policies and exclusive amenities, we’re here to answer your most pressing questions.