Backstory and Context
During the late 19th century, the Northwest was developing fairly quickly. In the area around Fidalgo Island, settlers started to arrive in the late 1850s after the U.S. Congress passed the Oregon Donation Land Claim Act, which offered a few hundred acres of free land to single and married men in what was then the Oregon Territory (it encompassed present-day Oregon, Washington, Utah and part of Montana). In the early 1870s, the various communities along the coast were anticipating the possible arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which was being built westward across the country from Minnesota to Washington. Fidalgo Island and the other communities attracted speculators who sought to develop them in order to convince Northern Pacific to select them as the terminus site. Northern Pacific didn't announce where the terminus of the railroad would be until 1873 (it started building tracks in 1870) when it chose Tacoma, where it finally arrived in 1883.
Railroads didn't reach Fidalgo Island until the 1890s. In anticipation of its arrival, the land where Anacortes is now was cleared and the town was platted (it was officially incorporated in 1891). Buildings, including the Wilson Hotel, were constructed at this time. Within a year, Anacortes was well established with graded streets, stores, saw mills, banks, and other businesses. The Wilson Hotel was thought to be one of the best hotels north of Seattle and a popular place for visitors. David Wilson built two other buildings in Anacortes but they no longer exist.
In the coming decades, a variety of businesses and establishments occupied the building on the first floor. These include saloons, restaurants and a number of different stores. The upper floors were used as a hotel or rooming house at different times; they were also vacant for periods of times as well. It was converted into low-income housing in the mid-200s. Despite its many changes in usage, the former Wilson Hotel has remained an important landmark, symbolizing the city's early period of significant growth.
"The Wilson Hotel." Anacortes Housing Authority. Accessed February 15, 2020. http://www.anacorteshousing.com/wilsonhotel.html.
Woo, Eugenia. "Wilson Hotel." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/73bc6e68-2dfc-4faa-a9cb-326a1fe6e077.
Joe Mable, via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anacortes_-_Historic_Wilson_Hotel.jpg