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Once a Candidate to be Torn Down, Spokane's Davenport Hotel Reaches
 New Heights Under Ownership of Walt and Karen Worthy
The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jun. 15, 2007 - Those who have been around Spokane long enough can remember the Davenport Hotel's reputation for washing the coins that changed hands there each day.

Old-timers will recall the grand times of proms and banquets, visiting dignitaries, casual chats in the lobby over beverages and a background of chirping parakeets. They may even remember the time in 1984, the year before the fabled hotel shut its doors, when a Hereford heifer arrived by limousine for the "Ladies of the Lobby" stock show.

But no one should forget the years of civic anxiety when the unthinkable was thought -- that the once-world-class Davenport might be torn down.

That worrisome era is over. Confirmation, not that it's needed, came this week in news that the Davenport has been named again to online travel site's list of the best hotels in the United States -- up from 10th to third this year -- and sixth best in the world.

Based as it is largely on customer experience and satisfaction, the Expedia rating obviously has commercial value for the hotel as a business. But in Spokane, the Davenport is more than a hotel or a business. It is an icon of grandeur and an architectural heirloom from the thriving days of early 20th-century Spokane.

And while Expedia's stamp of approval doesn't tell Spokane residents anything they didn't already know, the outside acknowledgement of class is a reminder of how much the hotel and the city have overcome.

By the end of the 1960s the Davenport was in a slide that produced, among other consequences, a financial scandal not unlike that which befell Metropolitan Mortgage and Securities in recent years. The '70s, the '80s, the '90s generated an undulation of rising and falling hopes as one plan after another failed to reverse the hotel's sagging fortunes. Bankruptcy in 1972. Federal securities fraud indictments against former corporate manager J. Harlow Tucker in 1974. Closure in 1985.

Not coincidentally, downtown Spokane was experiencing ills of its own during much of that time. Expo '74 provided a temporary boost, but the pulse was slowing and such stalwart businesses as The Crescent were disappearing.

So when a giant hotel company from Hong Kong, Sun International, couldn't achieve its hopes of restoring the Davenport Hotel's stature, who would have bet on a local couple to pull it off?

Up stepped Walt and Karen Worthy, determined enough to venture millions in personal investment to pursue a goal that had defied so many others. They bought the Davenport in 2000 with brash plans to reopen in two years.

On a July weekend two years later, more than 10,000 people circled the block, waiting in line to shake hands with the Worthys and get a first-hand look at the immaculately refurbished hotel where Georgian Walt Worthy's father had spent the night after being discharged from the Army Air Corps in World War II.

When guests started checking in in 2002, the hotel was as clean and shiny as a freshly washed dime, but it was far from certain that it would regain the worldwide reputation it once enjoyed. Now we know it's well on its way.


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