McMenamins connects lodging to community in Bothell

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“Back to school” has rarely been as fun as it was in Bothell last week during the pre-opening party for the new McMenamins Anderson School hotel, which officially began welcoming guests two days later, on Oct. 15. The Oregon-based hospitality company welcomed a broad range of community members, including former W.A. Anderson School faculty members, alums and their families, to celebrate the company’s first Seattle-area hotel. Guests exploring the 5-acre property created a festive din as they sampled selections from the five onsite restaurants and bars while admiring the eclectic art and design features adorning the 72-room hotel and related amenities.

McMenamins is known for converting tired historical properties into lively and unpretentious gathering places, and the Anderson School, the company’s ninth hotel and 54th overall location, seems a perfect fit for its playbook. The hotel rooms are set in the former classrooms of the brick, three-story art deco schoolhouse that originally opened in 1931 as Bothell Junior High and was later named for its first principal, Wilbert A. Anderson.

The check-in desk is located across a walkway from the schoolhouse in a corner of the former cafeteria and adjoins Tavern on the Square. The latter, a full-service farm-to-table restaurant, is awash in dark woods complemented by antique-inspired light fixtures and stained glass, including a row of panels designed to show the musical notes from the Grateful Dead song “Scarlet Begonias.” This design motif, sort of like a marriage between Victorian and Psychedelic styles, continues throughout much of the rest of the property, with historic photos complemented by original paintings brightened by a sun splash here or a moonbeam there.

A formerly neglected indoor city pool across a parking lot from the schoolhouse has been transformed into the North Shore Lagoon, a new, South Seas-inspired saltwater pool open to the public and hotel guests. Bamboo-paneled walls adorned with Polynesia art surround the refurbished pool, while a new, glass-enclosed tiki bar overlooking an edge of the pool completes the tropical vibe.

Back on campus, outdoor seating, fire pits and creative lighting encourage hotel guests, restaurant patrons and other visitors to linger in the courtyard (pictured above). Down the way, the old school gymnasium has been converted into a 134-seat movie theater showing first run features. Audience members can order food, beer and other beverages to enjoy at their seats, a so-called “view and brew” experience. A private-event space adjoining the cinema is named for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who grew up in Bothell and attended the school. (Murray’s 8th grade yearbook photo is posted alongside that of her twin sister, Margaret, in a hallway outside the event space.)

As is the case with McMenamins’ other properties, the beverage selections include the company’s own brand of wines and beers, with batches of the latter brewed onsite. Plans are said to be underway to add offerings from nearby Woodinville wineries to the mix. While rooms at some McMenamins properties require guests to use shared bathrooms, each room at the Anderson School has its own bathroom, along with a flat-screen TV and Wi-Fi.

The hotel’s proximity to Woodinville’s wine country, about five miles away by car or bike (the latter via the Sammamish River Trail) make it a welcome addition to the Eastside’s lodging offerings. The “come-one, come-all” spirit of its restaurants, pubs, pool and movie theater is bound to make the property a hit with locals, too.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the hotel is its connection to the community. Shortly after McMenamins struck its development deal with the city of Bothell about five years ago, its two in-house historians went into action. The information they obtained from historical records and interviews with former school faculty members and their families, along with others from the community, formed the basis for several paintings of people who shaped the community. Combined with historic photos and placards, these portraits tell the story of Bothell, from its rural beginnings through its emergence into an increasingly sophisticated residential community. Displays in the rooms and common areas reveal interesting details about people such as Don Bagnell, Roger Fisher and Steve Fossen. The former was an assistant Anderson School principle credited for diversifying the faculty’s ethnic makeup during the mid-1960s; the latter two were kids from nearby Kenmore who went on to become founding members of the rock band Heart.

As guests gaze at these and other vignettes, they are likely to be as pleasantly surprised as I was by what you can learn in school these days.

(Photo by Kathleen Nyberg, courtesy of McMenamins)