Overseeing the Davenport Hotel with an appreciation for history
by Treva Lind | © Washington State University
"It's wonderful to be a part of an environment where all you have to do is make people happy and make them comfortable." —Lynnelle Hull Caudill
Being part of something as elegant and historical as the Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane adds extra excitement to Lynnelle Hull Caudill's workplace. She joined the Davenport in October 2001 during the landmark hotel's $30 million, two-year renovation. In April she became director of operations.
While overseeing the daily workings of the hotel, she enjoys the stories she hears from so many people with strong attachments to the building. For decades the Davenport served as a favorite Northwest site for special events, holidays, wedding receptions, grand parties, or an overnight stay, and hundreds of former visitors have called or written with fond memories.
"It's touching. It reminds you this is not just an ordinary hotel," she says. "There are people who remember the Davenport as the most elegant hotel in its time anywhere."
When rooms in the refurbished hotel first opened in July, early guests came from as far as Hawaii and Georgia.
Designed by noted architect Kirtland Cutter and completed in 1914 by entrepreneur Louis Davenport at a cost of $2.5 million, the Davenport enjoyed success as a first-class, world-renowned hotel through much of the 1900s. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy have been guests. So have movie stars Mary Pickford, Clark Gable, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Rock Hudson. Other visitors included Nat King Cole, Babe Ruth, and aviators Emelia Earhardt and Charles Lindbergh.
Although the hotel started to slide after Louis Davenport sold it in 1945, it withstood various changes in ownership before closing in 1985. Two years ago, Spokane businessman Walt Worthy and his wife, Karen, bought the 14-story building with plans for historical renovation.
Following a gala opening September 13 and 14, people remain eager to see grand old touches renewed, including the Spanish-Renaissance-style lobby with its glass skylight, elaborate furnishings, and beautiful fireplace.
The front desk features some original carved panels and the original "rack," an antique bank of key slots. Near the grand entry is an Italian hand-carved fountain. Elegant ballrooms were restored in detail, including the Marie Antoinette Room with its surrounding balcony and original chandeliers.
Additionally, the 284 guest rooms were gutted and redesigned to match the Davenport's classic appeal. At one time, some 200 workers were involved in the restoration.
Caudill is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the hotel, including the front desk, guest services, banquets, and housekeeping. While the hotel's finishing touches were being completed, guest rooms were booked solid into the fall, she said in mid-summer.
"I like the energy of a large, full-service hotel. It's wonderful to be a part of an environment where all you have to do is make people happy and make them comfortable."
After attending Washington State University (x'89 Hotel and Restaurant Administration), Caudill worked with Westin Hotels, then with Windsor Capital Group, and later R.C. Hedreen Company, owners of three Seattle properties.
Before joining the Davenport, she served as corporate human resources director simultaneously for the Madison Renaissance Hotel, The Seattle Hilton, and The Elliot in Seattle. In Spokane, she co-owned and managed an executive search and human resources consultant company, Caudill-Groves.
Initially, Caudill came to the Davenport to offer hotel consulting services, after moving from Seattle to Spokane with her husband, John, and two children. Soon she was hired on as director of human resources and was at that time the only staff member with hotel experience, so she played an integral role in hiring the hotel's staff, now numbering 265 people. She helped review over 3,000 job applications.
During the renovation, Caudill's days often included walks around the site with Walt Worthy to discuss plans for hotel operations. For the hotel's guest rooms, the Worthys selected carved mahogany furniture, marble bathrooms, and such high-tech features as an electronic "Do not disturb" signal.
"The technology system in the hotel is state-of-the-art" and has the latest options for high-speed Internet use, Caudill says. She credits Worthy for his vision.
"He's the most optimistic person I've ever met. He just has a can-do attitude which . . . keeps everyone feeling good."
She adds that the Worthys remained committed to renovating where it made sense and making changes that "tastefully fit in" with the hotel's historical architecture.
"As they renovated this traditional and historic hotel, we had to make sure it matched well with not only modern conveniences but also with how we operate hotels today," she says.
Caudill expects the 88-year-old Davenport to have steady occupancy from business groups visiting Spokane for regional meetings. But she anticipates tourists will also seek out the hotel as a unique place to stay.
"It's going to be a mix of business and corporate groups-and a lot of individual visitors," she says. "There's lots of excitement."
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