Small Town News

Disaster and Accident

Abandoned Shelton hotel burns to ground

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Nobody injured; transients, felines frequented old Cameron Hotel

The former Cameron Hotel in downtown Shelton, long abandoned but temporary home to feral cats and transients, burned to the ground early Saturday morning.

The cause of the fire was "undetermined," but is believed to be started by transients lighting a "warming fire" inside the brick structure at 303 S. Second St., said Mike Patti, deputy chief of Central Mason Fire & EMS.

Patti said his department was alerted to the blaze at 12:29 a.m. Saturday. The first floor was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived at the site, Patti said.

Patti said the firefighters had just plugged their hoses into the water hydrant across the street when the building collapsed. If the collapse had occurred a few minutes later, it might have injured or killed firefighters, he said.

The responding agencies included the Mason County Sheriff's Office, the Shelton Police Department, Mason County PUD 3, and Mason County fire districts 4 and 11.

The building, which was built in 1927, was not reinforced, Patti said.

"The fire codes were pretty lax at that time," he said.

The building had no electricity or gas, so an accidental fire can be ruled out, Patti said. Dogs sniffed for signs of humans in the debris on Saturday morning, but no bodies were found, he said.

The building was on the City of Shelton's top 10 list for demolition as part of its abatement program for several years.

A major obstacle was the estimated cost of $15,000 to $20,000 to demolish it.

Employees of the City of Shelton had long posted warning signs on the building and boarded up the windows. But intruders removed the boards, which allowed entrance to many feral cats.

"It's been a real challenge to keep people out," Patti said.

In 1927, George and Bertha Cameron opened the 30-room Cameron Hotel at a cost of $32,000. Guests gathered in a room next to the lobby to play piano and the wind-up phonograph and converse. Rooms went for $1.50; a room with a private bathroom was $3.

A front-page story in the Journal from Sept. 13, 1927, pointed out that the Cameron sported hardwood floors, except for the lobby's "attractive terraza floor."

"It is modern, soundproof and fireproof in construction and has all the appointments of the hotels of the larger cities," the newspaper reported.

George Cameron died in 1930, leaving his widow to run the business at the height of the Great Depression. She sold the building in 1946, and the hotel was converted into apartments.

A fire destroyed the top floor of the three-story building.

The building was declared derelict by the city of Shelton. Skip McConkey of Olympia owns the building.

In July 2013, Shelton native Nathan Payne proposed renovating the building to create a co-op store where vendors would donate a portion of their proceeds to a children's hospital.

In a story on the proposal in the Journal, it was noted that squatters had left behind rumpled clothes, magazines, pop cans, and a biography of Goldie Hawn.

Payne's crew found a filled toilet in the middle of a room, and a syringe surrounded by bones, which they hoped were those of a cat or a chicken. The stench of urine was strong.

But under the dust and debris were glimpses of a more polished past, including granite floors.

An organ and piano were still upright.

The co-op never came to fruition. The organ and piano are somewhere in the burned debris.

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: May 26, 2016

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