Since the rebuilding of downtown Spokane after the great fire of 1889, the area around First Avenue and Post Street has always been a mix of hotels and restaurants. Despite the rise of Spokane’s banking industry, which added several impressive multistory buildings, hotels are still strongly represented downtown.
Ar 1955, was the Palmerston Hotel was part of a block that included McGoldrick-Sanderson Motors and the Spokane Theater. The hotel opened in 1904 to much fanfare. The newspaper called it one of “the most complete, up to date, modern luxurious hostelries that has ever been opened in the northwest.” The building had electric lights, steam heat and a call bell and telephone in every room. The hotel had Turkish baths” in the basement with pools, “needle sprays” and steam rooms for both men and women, though the hotel itself “caters strictly to the patronage of gentlemen.”
Men-only hotels hinted at the easy availability of booze and illicit entertainment nearby. Just a few months after opening, the Spokane Chronicle published an exposé on the Palmerston and its bar, the Saratoga. In the basement beneath the bar, there were a series of tiny rooms furnished with couches where couples could slip away for a private rendezvous. The city passed an ordinance forbidding such rooms, especially any room with a lockable door. The Saratoga complied by replacing the doors with curtains. Despite its seedy reputation early on, the Palmerston functioned as a hotel and, later, as apartments into the 1970s. Today, the property is part of the Davenport Hotel parking garage.
Across from the Palmerston was the Desert Hotel, built by Victor Dessert before the great fire as the Pacific Hotel and rebuilt after it. Dessert was an immigrant from the Alsace–Lorraine region of France and he would eventually put his name on the hotel, then shorten it to the “Desert Hotel.” His heirs would adopt a desert motif with Egyptian décor.
Dessert died in 1907, but his heirs continued by adding more properties and tearing down the old hotel in 1962 to replace it with the Desert Saharan Motor Inn, following a post-war hotel trend toward auto travel.
The Dessert family sold off most of its properties in the late 1970s and the former downtown site is now the Davenport Hotel Tower.