Everybody’s heard of Crab Louis, but did you know that it’s supposed inventor was a successful restaurateur and later hotel owner in Spokane?
Yes, I’m talking about Louis Davenport.
Llewellyn “Louis” Davenport came to Spokane Falls in early 1889 at the age of 20 to work in his uncle’s restaurant. Just a few months later on August 4th, a fire wiped out 32 square blocks of the city, burning the restaurant with it. While locals called it “the most devastating fire that has occurred in the history of the world,” Davenport did not stay discouraged long. The following morning, he salvaged what he could from his uncle’s restaurant and opened “Davenport’s Waffle Foundry” in a tent-like structure amidst the rubble.
A year later, Davenport moved his restaurant to a brick building in the Wilson Block and renamed it “Davenport’s Restaurant.” The restaurant and it’s offerings continued to expand over the next several years. In 1903-1904, Davenport purchased the adjacent Bellevue Block, expanded “Davenport’s”, created a lavish ballroom, and turned the upstairs of the building into “The Pennington Hotel.” His menu offered over 100 items.
Davenport hired architect Kirtland Cutter to make his two buildings match. Cutter suggested a Mission-Revival style, which was vastly different from the other buildings in town.
Sources disagree on what exactly happened next, but in 1908 it was announced that a grand hotel would soon be built in Spokane Falls, and by 1912 the Davenport Hotel Company was formed. Cutter and his partner Karl Malmgren were selected to design the new building, and a grand, ornate structure was designed. Davenport didn’t want to spend unnecessary money on fancy ornamentation, and a simpler design was made. It cost about $2 million.
In 1912, buildings currently on the hotel site were demolished, and construction began the following year. Not a single worker was killed or seriously injured. Cutter and Davenport traveled the world, selecting only the finest furniture, rugs, and other decor.
When the Davenport Hotel opened September 1, 1914, it’s dining room featured fine art, Irish linens from Liddell, and a 15,000-piece set of Reed & Barton silverware, the largest private order created by the company.
The Davenport was considered one of America’s finest hotels. Looking through this brochure, it’s easy to see why.
I’m not sure about the age of this spoon, or if it came from Louis Davenport’s restaurant or hotel, but it’s a silver-plated tea spoon from Reed & Barton in the double-stamped Belmont design.
Belmont was designed in 1906 by August Miller and was a popular choice for hotel silver. This particular piece has “Davenport’s” engraved in cursive on the handle. The back reads “Patent Approved for Reed & Barton B.P”. The Belmont design was still offered in 1908 where it appeared in the Reed & Barton catalogue. The price for a dozen spoons was either $4.75 or $6.50 (about $110 or $150 today).
I don’t know when the pattern was discontinued, but it’s possible that this piece was part of the 15,000 piece set first used in the hotel. At least, it’s fun to think so!