Built from 1900 to 1904, The Orcas Hotel has been residing above the ferry landing ever since. The Van Moorhem family operated the hotel for a number of years, and Octavia Van Moorhem became well-known for her home cooking.
Below appears a timeline that dates back to the WWII era:
1945: Marjori Jackson (Mrs. N.L. Cunningham) purchases the hotel and all of the equipment from the Van Moorhem family, and becomes the new owner as of July 1.
1948: Jackson sells the hotel to longtime islanders named Clyde and Dorothy Brown, in October. The Browns operate the hotel until 1950, mainly as a boarding house for workers building the Kaiser Estate in Deer Harbor. Like Octavia Van Moorhem, Dorothy becomes well-known for her home cooking.
1950: The Browns sell the hotel to Dr. E. Ralph and Agnes Pinney, who along with their two sons, James and Philip, run the business until 1954. During the early 1950s, double bed rooms rent for $2.50 a night. Gross annual income for the hotel operations is $5,000.
1954: After Agnes Pinney passes away, the family sells the hotel for $16,000 to Thelma Cunninham. Her time as owner spans from Nov. 1, 1954 into 1959.
1959: Thelma Cunninham sells the hotel to Dale and Mabel Beck in January 1959. Mabel is remembered for, among other things, stapling egg cartons to the ceiling of the hotel's coffee shop.
1963: Oval W. and Glen Ella Jenkins buy the hotel from the Becks for $29,500.
1968: Dick and Shirley Cundy purchase the hotel from the Jenkins in August for slightly over $39,000. The hotel becomes a social center, with nightly music jams taking place in the bar. Thirteen rooms are available to guests at this time.
1977: Starting in November, the hotel is closed to overnight guests due to inadequate fire protection systems. Up to this point, the fire escape has simply been a large knotted rope secured to the ceiling of the third-floor bedroom. The cost to upgrade the building to be compliant with the State Fire Marshall regulations is estimated at $125,000. The Washington State Ferry System proposes to turn the condemned hotel property into an extended ferry parking area.
1978: The Cundys sell the hotel to a real estate investment group called "Old Orcas Hotel, LTD" whose members include Wally Gudgell Jr., Dorothy Fyfe, Barbara and John Jamieson, Ron Sher, Billie Neill and Gretchen Kaiser. Letters of support written by islanders successfully protect the hotel from becoming a ferry parking lot.
1982: In May of this year, the hotel is approved by the Washington State Governor's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and is recommended to the Department of the Interior for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. In September, the Orcas Hotel is officially added to the register.
1985: Starting in January, Barbara and John Jamieson and Ron Sher (Jamser, Inc.) buy out the other partners, and begin work to restore the hotel with great care taken to retain the historical integrity of the building. Restoration of the foundation alone takes two months, as the second and third floors need to be raised so new concrete footings can be poured to replace the original foundation, which was rotting and threatening to topple the building.
Other work includes replacing posts, beams and joists, while rebuilding the south porch floor and the north exterior walls from the ground to the second floor. Fire suppression sprinklers, smoke detectors and alarms, fire exits and escapes are also installed.
The first level is made compliant to the Americans with Disability Act, while the overall structure is upgraded to meet the 1982 building code specifications for energy efficiency and safety. Islanders Sue Joyner, Laura Eagan and Cathy Vierthaler help identify appropriate Victorian colors and decor for the interior, while Michelle Barach returns the surroundings back to an English garden setting. The rooms are eventually brought back to accommodate overnight guests. The Orcas Hotel is once again considered a full-service hotel.
1990: The Jamiesons and Shers sell the hotel in May to Orcas Hotel Inc., a California corporation owned by Jim Jannard.
1998: Doug and Laura Tidwell purchase the Orcas Hotel in June. They make extensive updates to the building including adding bathrooms inside the guest rooms, expanding and modernizing the kitchen, and building a deck outside of the west side of the building overlooking the ferry landing. With the exception of the Van Moorhem family, they are the longest running owners in the hotel's history.
2020: John Cox and Julia Felder purchase the hotel in February. Their history with the property is still very much in the making…