The Hotel Hesperides lived large in Tacoma, Washington during its heyday between 1911 and 1923. Notable Tacomans were invited to a formal dinner and dance on opening night in the summer of 1911. Today, most people living in Tacoma have no idea of the history of the wooden, chalet style building sitting near Titlow Beach at the end of Sixth Avenue.
In 1903, Aaron R. Titlow, an Ohio born lawyer living in Tacoma, purchased the northern half of the Wilton donation Land Claim (including most all the property between Sixth Avenue and Nineteenth Street). Previous to this, Puyallup and Nisqually Indians used this land with its beautiful views as a campsite.
A secluded western spot far from the downtown hub of the city, Titlow's beach was a wonder to behold. Views of the Olympic Mountains, Fox Island and the Puget Sound dominated the skyline. Aaron R. Titlow dreamed of making this spot a destination.
Titlow's dream became a reality in 1911 when he opened the only tourist and summer hotel on tide water in the state of Washington. The Swiss chalet styled hotel was designed by architect Frederick H. Heath who also designed Stadium and Lincoln High Schools, the former National Realty Building (currently Key Bank Downtown Tacoma), and the Central School Building. The cost was $50,000 and for his money, Aaron H. Titlow had a hotel with 3-1/2 stories, 30 guestrooms, a formal dining room, billiard room, barber shop and a ladies parlor.
Many guests from Seattle were drawn to the resort. They would arrive by steamer, which would then go on to Shelton and Olympia. The round trip fare to Titlow was fifty cents. Another traveling option was by chauffeur. A separate building was available nearby for the chauffeurs to stay in The bedrooms and bathrooms wee upstairs and there were spaces below for the limousines.
Fully self-supporting, Titlow supplied his hotel with fresh milk, eggs, chicken, vegetables, fruit and berries from his farm also located on the 200-acre property. A typical dinner would include chicken and dumplings, fresh vegetables, salad and homemade berry pie or cobbler.
Each guestroom had its own balcony, with a western view of the Puget Sound. Hundreds of steamer ships went by every day, much to the enjoyment of the guests watching from their rooms or from the veranda. Hot and cold water was piped into every bathroom in the building, which was anew design feature of its day.
The design of the dining room interior included the finest of china, silver and linens. Columns of Douglas fir supported the beamed ceilings and twenty-two Tiffany lantern lights illuminated the space. At the end of the room, a brick fireplace was lit if the weather turned chilly.
Surrounding the hotel were trees, tent camping sites and a parking lot. Outdoor diversions could be a game of tennis, a swim in the lagoon or a ride in a glass bottom boat. Activities at the beach included clam digging, crabbing, beach combing and fishing. Boat rides on "The Lady of the Lake" or "The Folly" could go across The Narrows to Wollochet Bay, Day Island, or one of the other inlets. A popular attraction for the children was the Ostrich Farm, located nearby. The giant nine foot high birds would run around to the delight of the children and the plumes were a special favorite of the ladies.
Hotel Hesperides also served other uses. during World War I officers and their families were quartered there and in the off season, young bachelors made the hotel their home.
Although Hotel Hesperides was a fine destination spot with multiple functions, by the early 1920's it was no longer a profitable operation. Whether it was the war years or an ending of an era, Aaron R. Titlow's dream started to lose the public's interest. Titlow died in 1923 and the hotel closed.
In 1926 The Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma acquired the property and in 1928 the Hotel Hesperides reopened as the Titlow Beach Lodge. The lodge was closed from 1937-1941 during a Works Progress Administration park improvement project. During the project, the top 2 stories of the lodge were removed. After the remodel, part of the lodge housed the Assistant Superintendent of Parks and his family and another part was used as a rental facility.
Since 1974, Titlow Lodge has been a rental facility and headquarters for our Summer Day Camp Program with renovations in 1974, 1983, 1992 and 2011. Renovation work in 1992 included structural, mechanical and electrical upgrades. Renovation work in 2011 included new roof, window restoration, west veranda construction, new hardwood flooring, new lighting, new exterior doors and stairs, and painting inside and out.
The 58 acres surrounding the lodge is owned by Metro Parks. The extensive beach frontage and estuary lagoon serve as the focal point to park visitors. Other site amenities include tennis and basketball courts, playfields, trails, spraygrounds, playgrounds and picnic areas.