Backstory and Context
When the Byron Hotel opened, the area was experiencing rapid growth thanks to the thriving lumber, fishing, and coal industries. Tourism also growing as well. In order to accommodate businessmen and wealthy tourists (and unmarried professionals), Captain Byron decided to build the hotel to give them a place to stay and socialize. With its luxurious accommodations, the hotel was the most popular hotel in the city for decades. It also hosted a variety of events including weddings, banquets, conventions, and high school proms.
Byron, who passed away in 1908, was a prominent figure in the city in the early 1900s. He served two terms as councilman and played a key role in the funding of sidewalks in the downtown area. Leopold Schmidt arrived in Washington in the early 1890s and built a brewery near Olympia in 1894. While in Bellingham to establish a brewery here, he decided to buy the hotel. He lived there until he passed away in 1914.
Subsequent owners expanded the hotel in the 1920s and again in 1968 with the construction of a four-story modern wing—where the original 1899 hotel building was once located—that still stands today. The hotel became a retirement home in 1985 and remained so for 33 years before declining occupancy and rising costs forced its closure. Hotel Leo opened in the fall of 2019.
Gallagher, Dave. "A new hotel is expected to bring even more evening activity into downtown Bellingham." October 14, 2019. https://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/business/article236018858.html.
Relyea, Kie & Rasbach, David. "After 33 years, The Leopold in Bellingham will no longer be a retirement community." The Bellingham Herald. December 18, 2018. https://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article223256855.html.
Sullivan, Michael. "Leopold Hotel." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. February 19, 1982. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NRHP/82004306_text.
"Welcome to Hotel Leo." Hotel Leo. Accessed February 3, 2020. https://www.bellingham.org/insider-blogs/downtown-bellingham-welcomes-historic-hotel-leo.
Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leopold_Hotel.JPG