Eccentric Seattle: Pillars and Pariahs Who Made the City Not Such a Boring Place After All
by J. Kingston Pierce
Published by Washington State University Press
320 pages, 2003
There's long been disagreement between the rosy official portraits of Seattle, Washington's history and the troubled, tragic and downright bawdy reality. A visitor to the city in 1897, at the height of the raucous Klondike gold rush, declared that the place was "more wicked than Sodom." Yet just over a decade later, U.S. President William Howard Taft more generously described Seattle as "one of the most magnificent combinations of modern city and medieval forest ... that has ever delighted the eye of men in this or any other country."
The truth, as J. Kingston Pierce makes clear in his irreverent new book, Eccentric Seattle, is somewhere in the middle. Sure, this aspiring "world-class" city, stuck up in America's far northwestern corner, has merited applause for its resiliency in the face of fire, epidemics, earthquakes and even a volcano; and it has been a pioneer in trans-Pacific trade, aircraft construction and the high-tech industry. Seattle was early to elect a woman as its mayor and eager to establish its credentials as a strong advocate for organized labor. But it was also in Seattle where burghers once plotted to import "pure young ladies" from New England to marry odiferous local loggers ... where one of the West's largest Ku Klux Klan rallies was held, and anti-Communist "witch hunts" were test-marketed ... and where a bogus religious prophet was "shot down like a dog," while the press cheered. Seattle was where President Warren G. Harding delivered his final speech; where serial killer Ted Bundy sought his first victims; and where renowned poet Theodore Roethke found himself in the middle of a nervous breakdown. For better or worse, it was there as well that that ubiquitous symbol of sanguinity, the Happy Face, allegedly began its jaundiced career.
Pierce, a longtime Seattle editor and author -- and the crime fiction editor of January Magazine -- spent most of the last two decades writing the history essays to be found in Eccentric Seattle. "I have focused on a cast of ambitious or ne'er-do-wellish characters through whom some of the most intriguing aspects of Seattle's evolution can be examined," he writes in his introduction. "I learned long ago that history isn't merely about dates and places and statistics; what gives it life are the people who charted its course, whether they were empire builders or avaricious businessmen, eristic newspaper editors or erratic preachers, artists or murderers."
January's excerpt focuses on a pair of bankers who, with plentiful pluck and almost as much in the way of embezzled funds, built a landmark hotel at the north end of downtown Seattle. It's an astonishing but true tale about civic optimism, financial scandal, pride and pathos, and the dire risks of dreaming too big.
The two men behind the Camlin Hotel may have let big dreams get ahead of their reason
Seattle was once a city where you could dub a restaurant "The Cloud Room," even though it floated a mere 11 stories above the streets. It's a corny name, and moisture-laden clouds probably seldom came down anywhere near this dining spot atop the old Camlin Hotel. But the name is ironic because the history of the Camlin Hotel never seemed anchored in reality anyway, and The Cloud Room only added to that impression. Surely, when the restaurant was christened, it was the heads of its developers that rested in the clouds, not the eatery.
When the Camlin's owners spent $50,000 in 1947 to convert what had been a penthouse suite into restaurant space, they wanted to boast about having the highest dining facility in the Pacific Northwest. Locals responded immediately. "It's been smooth sailing right from the start," Camlin manager John E. Graham told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer just after the restaurant and lounge opened. "We have been particularly well received, especially by those trying to show visitors our beautiful country."
The 360-degree outlook must have been something to behold in 1947, when the buildings surrounding the hotel's north downtown location stood much lower than today. Between sips of Sazerac, guests could gaze north to Lake Union, or west to downtown Seattle and the harbor beyond where the "mosquito ferry fleet" plied the Sound. The Pacific Coast Record, a restaurant trade journal, gushed over The Cloud Room as "the answer to all those who have bewailed the fact that there was no place in Seattle which took advantage of the wonderful views available from tall buildings." Until the Space Needle opened in 1962, the city offered no dining establishment closer to the stars.
For many Seattleites, a visit to this late-night noise box was their only contact with the Camlin Hotel. Many were enticed up to The Cloud Room by its name and its string of ceiling lamps easily espied from street level. Some remember visiting the lounge back when it was considered a bit seedy (and, therefore, oddly seductive) and was decorated with a sea of plush couches. They came to recognize The Cloud Room as an anachronism -- a charming old-fashioned venue attractive for its quaintness and evocation of a more naïve, eccentric Seattle. The entire Camlin, on 9th Avenue between Olive Way and Pine Street, eventually carried that tang. Never the moneymaker that its builders hoped it would be, and overshadowed in its early years by the older and larger Olympic Hotel and later by better-marketed "boutique hotels" like the Alexis and the Sorrento, the Camlin became The Hotel That Time Forgot. Its early 21st-century conversion into a private vacation resort only confirmed the Camlin's status outside of the mainstream.
However, few of its rivals could claim a more unusual -- or scandalous -- history. Almost eight decades after the hotel opened, the story hidden behind its brick-and-terra-cotta façade has lost none of its appeal. It's a saga about two ambitious bankers, Adolph Linden and Edmund Campbell, who wound up doing time in the Walla Walla State Penitentiary. It's a tale involving KJR Radio, a yacht with a faulty bilge pump, a God-fearing man who walked with a limp, and a grandiose mansion in Lake Forest Park that was allowed to fall into peeling, creaking decrepitude. It's also the story of a halcyon moment in Seattle's past when the city was being built through pluck and plunder, and when some town fathers reached rather clumsily toward the clouds.
Elizabeth Linden remembers her father-in-law, Adolph Frederik Linden, as "a man of dreams and high hopes." No dream was too big for Adolph. A heavyset, bespectacled gent with dark hair who stood just over 6 feet tall, he was filled with that unstoppable entrepreneurial spirit that drives a person from one business enterprise to another. He always looked for the shining path that could lead to prominence and influence. At one point in the late 1920s, Adolph was the president of a Seattle bank, had just built the Camlin Hotel, was cutting himself in on Oklahoma oil ventures, and soon would launch into producing and selling phonograph records. Each new endeavor, each new risk, held the promise of success.
Linden was born on May 29, 1889, just a week before Seattle's great fire. Father Frederik, a Baptist minister, and mother Christina had shipped out of Sweden some years before. When Adolph took his first breath, the family was living in Des Moines, Iowa. But like many ministers of that period, Frederik saw the American West as a more fertile ground to spread his teaching. By the time Adolph was ready for high school, the Lindens were residing in Seattle. Reverend Linden assumed the pastor's post at the Swedish Baptist Church, 820 Pine Street -- in the same block where the Camlin Hotel later would stand.
While attending high school in 1903, young Adolph worked at a lumber camp and a large delicatessen-cum-grocery store in the landmark Colman Building on 1st Avenue. Three years later, he got his first taste of the banking life as a manager for the Swedish American Bank, lugging hefty sacks of cash through the streets of Seattle. By 1910 Adolph had started on the staff of the Puget Sound Savings & Loan Association (PSS&L), then a nine-year-old institution.
In that same year, Linden married Esther Elizabeth Anderson. She was one of six children fathered by Aaron Frederick Anderson, also an expatriate Swede, who had set up shop as a shoe salesman in Michigan, and did well enough to escort one or more of his family members around the country by train each year. In 1908 Esther had embarked on a four-month excursion with her father that carried them finally to Puget Sound, where she met Reverend Linden's son, Adolph, during services at the Swedish Baptist Church. "I really don't know what she saw in Adolph," remarks Jim Linden, Adolph's grandson and an industrial engineer at the Boeing Company. "She was beautiful, and he was, well, kind of homely." Regardless, the two were wed in September 1910. He was 21 and she 15 months older. They set up house on Boylston Avenue. In the following year, Esther's family moved from Michigan to Puget Sound.
Esther's father, Aaron, had done well with footwear and he proved himself even more capable in the Washington lumber industry. He soon purchased large stands of timber in Snohomish, Whatcom, and Clallam counties, and his Discovery Bay Logging Company was once said to be among the Evergreen State's largest lumbering concerns. But Aaron Anderson, like his son-in-law, wasn't content with having his hand in just one business pot at a time. He owned three logging outfits, served as director of the National City Bank of Seattle and as vice president of the Federal Consolidated Milk Company, and by 1916 was president of Puget Sound Savings & Loan.
Being the son-in-law of the boss didn't hurt Adolph Linden's career one whit. He and "A.F." (as confidants and family referred to Aaron Frederick Anderson) got along famously, both socially and in business. Adolph rose quickly through the ranks at PSS&L. By 1923, the year that A.F. passed away, Adolph Linden was vice president and treasurer of the company. Listed as vice president and secretary was one Edmund W. Campbell.
Though Campbell, like Linden, had been born in Iowa, it's unlikely that the two knew each other before their Seattle banking years. Edmund Campbell, a man of medium height with an ennobling gray coiffure, was 19 years older than Adolph. Campbell had lived in Los Angeles and it's unclear when he moved north to Puget Sound. (His death certificate indicates that he arrived in northwest Washington as early as 1889; yet his grandson, a Bellevue attorney who prefers not to be named, believes Campbell didn't move to Seattle until 1905.) Edmund Campbell apparently started out in the L.A. delivery service, using horse-drawn carts to haul goods in what was then a dusty village, still very Mexican in atmosphere and overshadowed by San Francisco. Campbell is said to have prospered in the delivery market, but he eventually lost the business due to a disease that decimated his horses. After that, Campbell bundled up his wife and one daughter, also named Esther, and hopped a northbound train. With a head for business, he went into banking.
At the time of Aaron Anderson's demise, it was Adolph Linden who took over as president of Puget Sound Savings & Loan. With this boost in title and salary, in 1924 Linden purchased (reportedly "on impulse," without first telling Esther) a Georgian-style manse in Lake Forest Park. The house had been erected 10 years before by Harry V. Wurdemann, a distinguished ophthalmic surgeon who'd moved to Seattle from Wisconsin in 1909. The two-story residence stood on about five acres of land at the entrance to the park, and just off what was then two-lane Victory Way (today's Bothell Way). The grounds were planted with rose bushes and apple trees, with a cherry orchard at the northeast corner from which the estate took its name, Cherry Acres. After Linden bought Dr. Wurdemann's house (family records say he paid $6,300 for it), he sold the orchard and then sank as much as $100,000 into improving the remaining acreage, the main house, and outbuildings.
He dug a fine wading pool in the side yard and encircled the property with a fence made partly of white wood latticework, partly of brick and iron. A gate on Victory Way opened into a driveway curving up to the white, pillared residence, then swept around to the rear and a porte-cochere. Unfortunately, that impressive entrance eventually had to be locked up, because travelers continually mistook the Linden home for a roadhouse, and would come knocking at all hours in search of lodging. (Could this have been where Adolph's idea to construct a hotel originated?) Linden decorated the inside of the house with Oriental rugs and turned what had been a pink, tapestry-lined music room into a library to hold his immense collection of books -- including Abraham Lincoln's personal Bible, signed manuscripts by Mark Twain, an 1885 first-edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, and the original 19th-century manuscript of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Footsteps of Angels.
Even before Linden assumed the PSS&L presidency, he and Edmund Campbell had become partners in enterprises outside of their banking business. In the early 1920s, they bought into an Oklahoma oil concern, and in 1925 formed the Camlin Investment Company -- "Camlin" being a contraction of their surnames. To get this investment firm off the ground, Puget Sound Savings & Loan advanced it a whopping $865,988. (If that "advance" smells a little off, keep it in mind -- this and other monetary arrangements between the bank and its two top officers led to trouble down the road.) The first order of business for the Camlin Investment Company was to raise a ritzy hotel in downtown Seattle.
Now jumping ahead to Halloween, October 31, 1926 -- the day illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini died in Detroit. This same day, an 18-year-old boy was "stabbed and beaten to death by an infuriated mob" in Italy after he tried to shoot Benito Mussolini. It was in the middle of Prohibition. Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound was all the rage among the physically and emotionally infirm. In Seattle, everybody was talking about reports from Kelso, Washington, that steam had been seen rising from Mount St. Helens, but most folks scoffed at the idea of an eruption ever occurring in these modern times. The Bon Marché was advertising 65-cent silk neckties for men. Women's girdles could be had for $1.25 each. No matter where you went in town, it seemed someone was humming the latest hit song:
When the red, red robin
People who knew Adolph Linden and Edmund Campbell probably figured these two men were entitled to sing their own sweet song of success. After all, October 31 marked the official opening of the Camlin Apartment Hotel. It came at a time when Seattle was positively swooning about its own rapid growth, and newspapers enthused over each new building. The Seattle Times rhapsodized about the Campbell-Linden project, saying, "the exterior effect of the Camlin is such as [to] make it stand out from all parts of the city ... Instinctively, the thought is born of the magnificent view of the Sound and the Olympics which is to be had from the lofty windows in the rear of this edifice. Nothing has been spared in the way of expense in its construction ... The Camlin stands as a monument to Seattle's development, a mark which equals anything to be found anywhere on the Pacific Coast."
The tower's architect was Carl J. Linde of Portland, a one-time brewery designer from Wisconsin, who had worked under noted Oregon architect A.E. Doyle. Linde concentrated his efforts on the Camlin's main entrance and front façade facing 9th Avenue. Its basic style was Tudor-Revival, with lions' heads and other decorative gargoyles. Dark brick was sculpted into piers, with contrasting, light, terra cotta quoins and window trim. Lancet windows, cusped arches, and turrets of terra cotta provided more contrast on the 10th floor and along the parapet. The Times likened this newly minted property to "a gorgeously beautiful Italian castle." Interior appointments were equally lavish -- a Tennessee marble floor and "Italian mural decorations" in the lobby, plus mahogany woodwork and deep carpetings. For "the lover of fine furnishings," the Times reported, "one of the most notable features of this hotel is the collection of original paintings and etchings which has been gathered here. Most of these were secured through the Anderson Art Gallery in Chicago and the Ackerman Gallery of London, and comprise of themselves a group worthy of an individual collection."
The Camlin wasn't put up primarily to serve as a hotel for travelers, but as quality long-term housing for affluent Seattleites. For this reason, its 93 original suites were much better equipped than normal hotel rooms. Only eight rooms on the Camlin's first floor -- the "bachelor apartments" -- were limited to a single chamber and bath. "All others had been completely equipped with dinette and kitchenettes," explained the Times. "No two apartments are similarly furnished, or decorated. In addition, each bathroom is an outside room. [Seventeen of these were supplied with modern "shower baths."] Uniformed waiters give service in private dinettes, with no additional cost." The penthouse, taking up the entire 11th floor, was touted as being choice quarters for any members of Seattle's social elite.
Like many commercial buildings produced during this era, only the 9th Avenue façade was decorated -- the other sides of the tower were left plain, since it was optimistically assumed that newly built structures later would block these walls from public view. One such new high-rise was to have been a second Camlin Hotel, located to the north at the corner of 9th and Olive Way (today a parking lot). This adjoining hotel was to have stood 14 stories high with even more ornamentation than the first Camlin, though its Seattle architects, McClelland & Pinneh, tried to create a design in sympathy with Linde's existing edifice. The Camlin Investment Company paid $175,000 for the corner property, and construction was to have begun in the fall of 1926. But the second hotel never was built.
Linden and Campbell already might have been financially overextended at this point. Even before the Camlin was completed, the two men prepared to move Puget Sound Savings & Loan to a huge new center of operations on the east side of 4th Avenue, between Pike and Union streets. "We expect to erect on this site one of the finest financial buildings in the city," Campbell told the P-I in late 1925. When the institution's new Roman-style, terra cotta-faced headquarters opened in January 1927, that promise seemed fulfilled. The bank, also designed by McClelland & Pinneh, stood three stories tall with half a dozen massive pillars in front supporting a sculpted cornice. Inside, the main room floor was "furnished with silver gray sienna, with counters of imported marble, topped by bronze trimmings," the Times observed. "At the rear of the banking room are three huge colored art-glass windows, one each being devoted to shipping, commerce, and lumbering and elaborated by figures symbolic of these Northwestern activities. Diffused light has been arranged to give the effect of sunlight playing through the windows." The panes were designed by Hungarian-born artist Anton Rez, a son-in-law of early Seattle ship owner-turned-banker Joshua Green. Many of Rez's other glass works decorate West Coast churches.
The PSS&L had raised what could only be described as a monument to money. Yet its foundations were far shakier than most people realized. In late September 1926, only a month before the Camlin opened its doors, a member of the PSS&L board of directors discovered some questionable withdrawals from the bank's funds. These included: $865,988 used to grubstake the Camlin Investment Company and build the hotel; about $200,000 that had been "swallowed" up by Campbell and Linden's oil speculations; and another $27,850 loan to KJR, Seattle's first commercially licensed broadcast station. On September 30, these monetary "abstractions" were brought to the attention of the PSS&L board. Members were informed that about $1 million was missing from the bank's till, and that the diverting of funds may have commenced as early as 1924. Alarmed by such information, the board sought help from a man with a wonderfully Dickensian name, W.L. Nicely, the Washington state savings and loans supervisor. According to later court records:
This resulted in the meeting ... of the officers and directors with the supervisor October 2, when it was decided, with [Nicely's] advice and concurrence, that instead of closing the institution, the interests of the shareholders would be better served by securing an agreement with Linden and Campbell to make restitution as far as possible by turning over to the association all of their personal and other holdings, including the Camlin Apartment Hotel, under a trust arrangement, and that, under the direction of the supervisor, an endeavor would be made to restore the impairment to the capital of the association, the same officers and directors to continue in office, and the completion of the Camlin Apartment Hotel, which was then under construction, to be carried out.
It took another year, until September 1927, before a trust agreement covering the withdrawals was drawn up and placed on file by Adolph and Esther Linden, along with Edmund and May Campbell. This agreement was valued at between $1,500,000 and $1,750,000. It included stock certificates and Esther Linden's share of her late father's estate (valued at $200,000 to $300,000), as well as the Linden family's Lake Forest Park mansion and Adolph's prized collection of books, together valued at more than $300,000.
None of this, however, was revealed to the public.
Such a confining, censorious arrangement must have been difficult for ambitious men to swallow. Although America in the 1920s and 1930s seemed to be rife with bank embezzlements (Seattle witnessed at least two other such cases during this period), neither Adolph Linden nor Edmund Campbell previously had been associated with shady dealings. Campbell always had been viewed as extremely "straight," a churchgoer, a self-made businessman, and a mild-mannered gentleman who wasn't known to smoke or partake of intoxicating beverages. Linden had prided himself on his ability to triumph with his wit and energy, and he wanted more than anything else to stand at the forefront of Seattle's growth. Both men insisted they hadn't been lining their pockets secretly with funds from PSS&L. The withdrawals were dutifully recorded in the bank's books, they claimed, to ensure that those monies would be fully repaid. But this excuse didn't satisfy the board of directors. Supervisor Nicely was invited, as "trustee," to take a more active role in running the bank.
In response, Linden and Campbell twisted the dial to a new frequency. They had for some time been interested in getting into the radio industry. In the spring of 1927, they started the Northwest Radio Service, the kernel of what they hoped would grow into a nationwide broadcasting empire. Over the next two years, Linden sank tens of thousands of dollars into building up radio holdings. He bought Vincent Craft's KJR Radio and soon expanded its activities, starting an all-live operation and retaining a large staff of announcers, singers, and musicians. Never one to go halfway, Linden also hired a dance band, symphony orchestra, and string quartet to entertain a swelling radio audience. Curiously, despite earlier objections from the bank's board and in the face of W.L. Nicely's continuing supervision of that institution's activities, Linden continued to withdraw funds from PSS&L to finance this new commercial enterprise. Between April 1927 and May 1928, Linden is said to have tapped the bank for "loans" amounting to more than $50,000.
In March 1928, Adolph Linden resigned as president of the Puget Sound Savings & Loan Association. Edmund Campbell took over his job, and soon after moved temporarily from his Capitol Hill home into the Camlin's palatial top-floor penthouse.
Meanwhile, Linden was sure he could make a go of radio, the remarkable new medium that, as the New York Times once put it, "let people see things with their own ears." The network's spread was phenomenal. By the summer of 1929, he owned KEX radio in Portland, KGA in Spokane, and KYA in San Francisco. He tied these in with six more outlets stretching as far east as Chicago. Later that same year, several East Coast stations were meant to join into what, by this juncture, Linden was calling the American Broadcasting Company (no relation to the ABC so well known today). Linden had pumped $117,000 into his ABC and already was thinking of other ventures to launch after the network had proved itself a consistent moneymaker. During ABC's rise, Linden and airplane manufacturer William Boeing were featured together in a Christian Science Monitor story lauding their efforts to "put Seattle on the map."
But then the castles in cloudy skies again began to dissolve. In August 1929, ABC suddenly was thrown into bankruptcy. Linden simply had too much outstanding credit and not enough money to satisfy his creditors' demands. With an unpaid bill of $90,000 due the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company, ABC's broadcast lines were pulled. The network's collapse took what remained of the Lindens' assets, save for their clothes, Esther's jewelry, and Adolph's big 1926 Lincoln LeBaron four-door sedan.
Consequently, it's no wonder they were heartened by news in October 1929 that the Twentieth Century Fox Company of New York was interested in taking over ABC -- Adolph was giddy with excitement at this nick-of-time rescue. He loaded his wife and their 15-year-old son, James, into the Lincoln and set out for New York City, hoping to get in some sightseeing before the contract signing began.
They were on the road on October 29, 1929, when the American stock market catastrophically crashed. By the time that the Lindens finally spied the glittering towers of Manhattan, Fox had decided it couldn't risk buying the Seattle-based radio network. Sorry, Mr. Linden. Sorry.
The Lindens didn't return to Washington right away, since Adolph had depended on the ABC purchase to pay off his debts and give him a chance to move into some other enterprise. Without that money, he reasoned, he'd be just as well off remaining in Gotham. Adolph was able to secure a $3,500 loan from a friend in Chicago, and with additional cash raised from selling the car, he started a small restaurant in Manhattan called the Bunch of Grapes. It didn't amount to much as eateries go, and Adolph couldn't seem to make much, if any, profit from it. The Bunch of Grapes closed by the next winter and Adolph was back out on the street, hunting without satisfaction for work at a time of escalating unemployment. Esther labored for awhile as a floorwalker in Macy's Department Store at $23 a week -- the first job she'd ever held -- but by February 1931 she too was out of a job. James was attending Harlem High School as a sophomore. The family lived at the small Wellington Hotel on 7th Avenue and cooked meals in a little electric toaster. The fur coat Esther Linden had brought with her from Seattle had been put up as collateral for the apartment rent.
Shortly after midnight on February 17, 1931, Adolph Linden stepped through the front door of the Wellington Hotel and onto the sidewalk for a head-clearing stroll. The only money he had left in his pocket was a dime -- half of what he'd had the morning before. Two New York cops hailed him with a "telegraphic warrant" from Seattle for his arrest. Linden, whose wife recently had cut his hair in preparation for another round of job hunting, and who appeared little the worse for his recent poverty, looked the policemen up and down for a minute. Then he said, "All right, where do we go?"
Several hours later, Esther learned that her husband of 20 years was being held at New York's Seventh District jail. From behind bars, Linden claimed he was innocent. "My wife, my boy," he murmured, "this is bitter medicine for them." But Esther (almost always described in contemporary newspaper accounts as "the former Michigan heiress") seemed to be taking the latest turn of events better than most folks expected. Although the Post-Intelligencer told of her crying when admitting "she was hungry," Esther was adamant in defense of her husband's business dealings -- even though settling Adolph's loans had cost her a fortune. "I gave all I had and I would have given more if I had it," she said. "Everything he had went, too. We went through it together, as we always go through everything together." And Esther spoke confidently to people back in Seattle of Adolph's innocence. "Of course, there are others there ... who say he stole money and is a fugitive from justice," she told the P-I. "How can they say that? He has been here all the time and everyone knew where he was. He was never a fugitive from anything. I don't understand business, but I am sure everything he did was perfectly legal. He didn't defraud anyone."
The authorities disagreed. Under armed guard, Adolph was put aboard a westbound train, with Esther and young James riding in the rear of the same car, and returned to Seattle to stand trial. Friends raised $15,000 for his bail and the Lindens moved temporarily into the Claremont Hotel on 4th Avenue. In April a grand jury began investigating affairs of the Puget Sound Savings & Loan Association, which had closed on February 7, 1931. The Great Depression was now catching up with -- and clobbering -- all kinds of speculative ventures. By the first week in May, a grand jury had readied indictments against Linden, Campbell, W.L. Nicely, W.D. Comer (who took over as president of the bank after Campbell left in August 1929 to go into the securities business), and Carl G. Nelson, who'd served as secretary of PSS&L during Linden's tenure. It was said that, collectively, these men defrauded the bank of up to $2 million.
There were three trials, due to the fact that the first two trials ended with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict. The last trial began on September 28, 1931. Campbell and Linden were each charged with three counts of grand larceny by embezzlement. In addition, Campbell was accused of making off with $3,681.25 worth of rugs and furniture during the time he occupied the Camlin Hotel's penthouse. Linden and Campbell, along with the three other defendants, pleaded not guilty. After two inconclusive jury ballots, Judge William Steinhart instructed the jurors not to base their ruling on whether Linden and Campbell had shown felonious intent in diverting funds from the bank, but simply on whether they had deprived that institution of money. Given such orders, the jury could reach no verdict other than "guilty." W.L. Nicely, the former state supervisor, was charged with not taking "proper action" to halt further alleged embezzlement after he was notified in October 1926 of Linden's and Campbell's withdrawal of funds. W.D. Comer was charged with fraudulent transactions that "really caused strangulation" of Puget Sound Savings & Loan. Former secretary Carl G. Nelson was acquitted. On March 11, 1932, Adolph F. Linden and Edmund W. Campbell were sentenced to 5 to 15 years in the Walla Walla penitentiary. The convictions were upheld in December of that same year.
Shortly thereafter, Campbell looked down from the second story of his large Capitol Hill home, thought about what it would be like to spend years in a cold prison cell, and closed his eyes -- he jumped in a desperate suicide attempt. There was no dignity left; he fell into a bush beside the house and only broke a leg.
On March 28, 1933, the gates of the old administration building at the Walla Walla penitentiary creaked open to admit a man over six feet tall with something of a paunch and small oval spectacles. He was taken away to be shaved, have his hair trimmed close to the scalp, and for photos -- front and profile. Instructed to strip, he was sprayed down with insecticide, issued prison fatigues, and led away by a guard to a special cell where he'd spend the next two weeks to ensure that he didn't have any communicable disease. The guard then went back to his station, reporting the securing of prisoner #14851 -- Adolph Frederik Linden.
In the last days of W.D. Comer's presidency at Puget Sound Savings & Loan, the Camlin Hotel was sold to the Vance Lumber Company. It already owned the $600,000 Vance Hotel, opened at 7th Avenue and Stewart Street in 1927, and had been interested in the Camlin ever since Linden's banking troubles became known to the public. The lumber enterprise started operating the Camlin in 1931. At the time, about 25 percent of the guestrooms were occupied by persons who considered the Camlin their home. However, Vance wanted to eventually convert the Camlin from a residential property into one that exclusively catered to travelers. In 1942 Vance proposed converting the Camlin's penthouse -- which never had been as profitable as originally hoped -- into a cocktail lounge and restaurant, defying the advice of at least one financial consultant, who cautioned, "frankly, I cannot see how any cocktail bar could absorb the amount of rental necessary to make this an attractive option to you."
Thus, the first of the Camlin's major renovations came two decades after the building's awkward birth. The Pacific Coast Record reported that 50 new guestrooms were added, and most were given accoutrements that made them seem more like residential living spaces than simply sleeping quarters. "During the day these rooms are comfortable, luxurious rooms, with ample facilities for lounging, entertaining, or reading," explained George Vance, managing director of Vance Lumber. "Whisk off the covers of the day-beds, and you have comfortable, spring-filled twin beds, inviting a good night's rest."
In 1947, The Cloud Room was opened with chef Victor Bruzzi, formerly at Seattle's Roosevelt Hotel and the St. Francis in San Francisco, presiding over the restaurant kitchen. In 1960, to take advantage of the Seattle world fair's opening in two years, Vance authorized $1 million worth of improvements. The Cloud Room was redecorated. Also, 32 cabana units were tacked onto the hotel's west side to increase the number of available rooms, and, in a peculiar way, to attract those Americans fond of staying in conventional roadside motels. The Camlin also added a ground-floor swimming pool and sundeck. If the hotel had seemed like an anachronism before, the addition of the cabanas and pool certainly heightened that impression. It was if the Camlin's owners thought their property was out in the suburbs, not smack in the middle of a burgeoning metropolis famous for its inclement weather. How many people would, after all, be thrilled to swim or sunbathe while workers in tall adjoining structures gawked down from office windows?
Between 1960 and another $2 million restoration in 1985, the Camlin served as home to the Italian Consulate, among other things. But the high point of its story during this period seems to have been the floating of a 40-foot yacht in the Camlin pool as a promotional gimmick. Rooms on the boat were rented, and "carpets were displayed" on it around the start of 1964, recalls Gary Wilson, who managed the hotel between 1960 and 1965. The boat attracted a great deal of media hoopla, but could've drawn even more when its bilge pump went on the fritz and the yacht started taking in chlorinated water. "I thought it was the greatest promo stunt we could've had," says Wilson, with a chuckle. "Imagine the headlines: BOAT SINKS IN DOWNTOWN SEATTLE."
The yacht was saved just in time, but Campbell, Linden, and the Puget Sound Savings & Loan fared less well. After closing in 1931, the bank was reorganized and reopened in a new location. Meanwhile, the imposing bank headquarters that Linden had built at 1414 4th Avenue in 1927 was occupied seven years later by Joshua Green's Peoples Bank and Trust Company. It was demolished in the 1970s to make way for Peoples Bank's new downtown headquarters tower, which has since been converted into a hotel. All that remains of Rez's original fine stained-glass creations is a single arched window mounted in a stairwell on the tower's bottom floor, accessible from hotel entrances on either 4th or 5th avenues.
Edmund Campbell was paroled from the Walla Walla penitentiary in April 1937, at the age of 67. He took employment as a credit manager, and became very active with the Rotary Club, his transgressions apparently forgiven, if not forgotten. When his wife, May, passed away in the late 1940s, he lost a good part of his spirit. He went to live with his daughter's family. His grandson remembers him as being "very well liked. We had a good relationship, too. He enjoyed sports, and used to take me to ballgames." No mention ever was made in the Campbell household about his prison time. It wasn't until the late 1970s, long after Edmund had died from leukemia in September 1954, that the grandson and his sister took their mother, the former Esther Campbell, up to The Cloud Room for dinner. At about that same time, the grandson learned why it was that his grandfather always walked with a limp.
As for Adolph Linden, he was turned down three times for parole. During his prison stint, however, he managed to find a fairly cushy job recording parole pleas for fellow inmates. He heard from wife Esther once a week by letter. One of those missives in 1934 carried the news that his father, the minister, died five days short of his 50th wedding anniversary. Adolph finally was released on March 19, 1938, and, in characteristic fashion, his first thought was to "make a start in a business undertaking ... At this time, my most important need is some capital with which to get going," he told the P-I. By the 1940s, he was in the phonograph record-pressing game. "You've got to give him credit for trying so hard after he lost so much," says Adolph's daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Linden. "He really did want to succeed."
Like Campbell, Adolph Linden suffered emotionally after his wife -- the woman who had stood by his side through so much -- perished from a stroke in 1960, yet he would recover his wit and charm. He spent his final years pursuing his love of literature, music, art, and theater. He'd sit for hours with his son, James, talking about the past, and enjoyed entertaining his grandchildren, to whom he sneaked ice cream on weekends. On Christmas Eve 1969, Adolph Linden -- once a bank president, once a radio entrepreneur, once a hotel owner -- died in an apartment for the elderly partly subsidized by city funds. He was 80 years old. He's buried with his wife and her parents in Capitol Hill's Lake View Cemetery.
Linden's mansion at the corner of what's now Bothell Way NE and NE Ballinger Way in Lake Forest Park -- the property that symbolized the apogee of that banker's prosperity -- went on to serve for a time as a Dutch consulate's residence. But its glory later faded. By the mid 1980s, the house, once pristine white, was dirty and peeling. Its shutters and French doors were askew, and the surrounding wood-and-iron fence was rusted and broken. One of the eight pillars bordering the home's front porch had toppled, and the wading pool was clogged with fetid muck. Its sweeping driveway was almost invisible beneath a blanket of moss and grass. The house had been on the market for years, but nobody seemed willing to save it. Not until the economic boom of the 1990s was the property finally purchased and expensively restored, to become the focal point of a small, upper-end housing development.
If one stands and gazes at the mansion long enough, erasing today's close-neighboring houses and traffic noise, one can still imagine what it must have been like that day in the 1920s, when Adolph Linden wheeled up the driveway in a Lincoln LeBaron to tell his wife that he was going to build a hotel called the Camlin, and how it was going to put him at the forefront of Seattle's phenomenal growth. | October 2003
Posted from Eccentric Seattle by permission from Washington State University Press. All rights reserved. To obtain a copy of the book, see http://wsupress.wsu.edu/newtitles/eccentricseattle.html.
Copyright © 2003 by J. Kingston Pierce