Rainier Club (Seattle)

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 1/27/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2959

The Rainier Club, Seattle's premier private club, was incorporated as a "gentleman's club" on July 25, 1888, by civic and business leaders including Judge Thomas Burke (1849-1925), W. A. Peters, and E. M. Carr. The original wing of the club building, located on 820 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle, was designed by Kirtland Cutter (1860-1939) and completed in 1904. During the 1960s and 1970s, the private club became non-discriminatory, and continues (in 2012) as a thriving institution with members from all races and both sexes.


Club members first occupied rented rooms in the McNaught mansion on the present site of the downtown public library and later moved to the Seattle Theater building where the Arctic Building now stands.

Spokane-based architect Kirtland Cutter designed the club's first permanent home, which was inspired by the Jacobean style of an English manor house and opened in 1904.

Seattle Architect Carl F. Gould (1873-1939) designed a new south wing in 1929, retaining Cutter's shaped gables while adding a Georgian-style entry and extensive Art Deco interior ornamentation.

Movers and Shakers

Among club membership could be found many of Seattle's civic leaders and prominent figures, including the men of the Blethen family (owners of The Seattle Times); the photographer Edward Curtis (1868-1962), who paid for his membership by taking photographs of club members; and art collectors Dr. Richard FullerĀ  (1897-1976), founder of the Seattle Art Museum, and Horace C. Henry (1844-1928).

In the changing times following the 1960s, membership was opened to women and to persons of color. In 1966, Saburo Nishimuro became the first Japanese American member. In 1978, Luther Carr, a prominent black contractor, became the first African American member and Judge Betty Binns Fletcher (1923-2012) became the first woman member.

The club's exterior was designated by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board in 1987, and its interior was renovated in the early 1990s. Access is restricted to club members and their guests.


Walt Crowley, The Rainier Club, 1888-1998 (Seattle: The Rainier Club, 1988).
Note: This essay was updated on October 25, 2012.

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