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 musicians.
“The Beatles kicked it off, and Led Zeppelin made the Edgewater infamous,” says Bob Peckenpaugh (’03 Hotel & Rest. Admin.), noting the rock band was twice banned from the hotel for antics that included keeping mud sharks in their suite and throwing furniture into Elliott Bay. “I lived through some of that history as a young front desk clerk.”
When Peckenpaugh returned to the Edgewater as general manager in 2016, a handful of employees who witnessed the bands’ raucous heyday at the hotel remained, but they were nearing retirement age.
To capture those stories, Peckenpaugh enlisted the help of Mark Beattie (’81 Hotel & Rest. Admin.), associate vice chancellor at Washington State University 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,” says Atwood, a scholarly associate professor and former music industry writer.
Some of the material—including photos of the Beatles and footage of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain—was featured in a mini-documentary prepared for the Edgewater’s sixtieth anniversary last year. In the future, the archived materials could be used for marketing campaigns, employee training, or even academic research.
“Knowing what happened here is almost like a little secret. This is where rock stars stayed and groupies hung out,” says 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.”
The Edgewater was built for Seattle’s 1962 World’s Fair, but construction issues delayed the hotel’s opening. By the time the Beatles tour dates were announced, the property was struggling financially.
Other Seattle hotels balked at hosting the Fab Four during the height of Beatlemania. Too much security and insurance was involved. But the Edgewater’s general manager stepped up, and the band’s booking helped revive the hotel’s fortunes.
“The Beatles stayed less than 24 hours during that first visit, but there are so many stories,” says Peckenpaugh, who left the hotel in 2020, but remains interested in the archival project.
Riley Gilbertson (’19 Hosp. Busi. Mgmt.) spent a summer researching the Edgewater for the independent study, digging into Seattle newspaper archives from the early 1960s through 1970.
The work immersed him in the music of his parents’ era. “They grew up in Seattle, and they remember when the Beatles came to town,” Gilbertson says.
He uncovered accounts of screaming fans descending on the hotel, which was surrounded by a chain-link security fence. While a decoy limousine approached the Edgewater, band members arrived at 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.
Gilbertson also found accounts of visits by the Monkees, Dave Clark Five, and the Beach Boys. As the hotel’s reputation 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 intrigued Gilbertson.
“One article described how a young man sporting flip-over hair similar to the Beach Boys got mobbed by a group of fangirls outside the Edgewater,” he says. “They were quite disappointed he wasn’t part of the band.”
Besides hosting big-name bands, the Edgewater had its own musical venue, the Crown Terrace Room. “It was an important contributor to Seattle’s nightlife, and it booked a diverse group of musicians,” 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,” says Beattie.
The students’ archival collection spans nearly four decades of hotel history. Maddy Cone, the final student involved, curated vintage photos and video footage from the project for the Edgewater’s 10-minute mini-documentary. The timing was serendipitous for Kirschman, who had just started a marketing job at Noble House Hotels.
“When I found out WSU Everett students had created an Edgewater archive, it was the biggest win imaginable,” she says. “Maddy was able to pull these really big names from the archive for us, including footage of Kurt Cobain on the balcony.”
“The students built this trove of information now available for the Edgewater’s use and for scholarly purposes,” Beattie says. “I would love to see a music historian—perhaps someone from the university—delve into it.”
Peckenpaugh says the archives will keep the Edgewater’s legends alive. Some of the employees who retired during the pandemic knew Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant on a first-name basis. Over the years, Plant became a regular visitor to the hotel.
“If you lose those firsthand stories, the personal connection to history gets lost,” Peckenpaugh says.
Legend of the Sound: Mini-documentary, photos, and stories from the Edgewater
History & Legends: From The Beatles and Black Sabbath to Kurt Cobain, The Edgewater is home to legends and their stories. (Edgewater Hotel)
“A show with Heart” (WSM Fall 2012)