Tacoma had been holding its collective breath in anticipation. The long-awaited McMenamins Elks Temple finally opened for business in April. It is the only McMenamins hotel property in the South Sound. Yes, it’s a 45-guest-room hotel, but so much more is at the heart of the enchanting experience you’re sure to have. The 700-personcapacity Spanish Ballroom is an epic live music venue. Among the five craft cocktail bars are a tiki bar with an “interactive waterfall fountain” and a hidden bar for adventure-seekers.
You can quench your thirst at a seven-barrel brewery with a 16-tap tasting room. McMenamins purchased the historic Elks building in 2007. But construction on the crumbling and waterlogged structure didn’t get into full swing until a decade later. (Tacoma has been holding its breath for a very long time.) An enormous amount of renovation and restoration has transformed the 1915 eye-catcher into an inspiring gathering spot for both locals and tourists.
Prepare to be wowed by the striking architecture of É. Frère Champney that landed the Elks Temple on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides the grand Spanish Ballroom, there’s a spectacular atrium and expansive views of Puget Sound’s Commencement Bay and Thea Foss Waterway. Outside, the adjacent Spanish Steps down the hillside were modeled after the Scalinata di Spagna in Rome.
McMenamins enlisted regional artists to bring the seven floors to life. They even preserved large graffiti that had accumulated during the temple’s previous decades-long vacancy. Glistening down from above throughout the temple is quite possibly the best collection of lighting fixtures and chandeliers on the West Coast. McMenamins spent more than five years gathering the collection from far-flung locales like Morocco and New York. There’s also a local beauty from the shuttered Orpheum Theater in Seattle.
So don’t forget to look up! Look for McMenamins’ magic in every corner. Follow the right footsteps or white rabbit and you may even find yourself in the secret bar.
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