Then & Now - The Rainier Club

Then & Now

Deep Northwest Roots

For 127 years The Rainier Club has cultivated community and fostered business and the arts in Seattle’s central downtown.  Rooted in tradition, our Clubhouse has been at the core of innovation and growth. From the initial plans of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition to President Bill Clinton’s press conference on the first U.S.-held Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, The Rainier Club has served as the destination for change.


  • 1888
    • The Club was first housed in a Victorian mansion owned by James McNaught. The “Dudes of The Rainier Club,” as the press dubbed the original members, rented the house for $100 per month.






  • 1889
    • The Great Seattle Fire ravaged the City and the McNaught Mansion was one of the few downtown buildings spared by the inferno. The Rainier Club served as a communications center while citizens fought the flames, later becoming a hub for reconstruction efforts.

  • 1893
    • The Club relocated in a leased building next to the then brand new Seattle Theatre.

  • 1896
    • S.L. Clemens spoke to the Club membership as part of his round-the-world tour.

  • 1899
    • A new state law was passed recognizing private clubs allowing The Rainier Club to be reincorporated as the “establishment of a social club, to promote friendly interaction among its members.”

      The photo below shows signatures of the individuals departing on the Harriman Alaska Expedition on July 30, 1899.

  • 1903
    • Edward Curtis, a club member from 1903 to 1920, accompanied Theodore Roosevelt on Roosevelt's visit to the then-new Mount Rainier National Park. Curtis, known for his participation in the Harriman Expedition and his work to record the Native American Indian, provided the Club many of his historic platinum print works in exchange for Club services.

  • 1904
    • Club leaders retained Spokane-based architect Kirtland Cutter to build a Jacobean-style building modeled on England’s Aston Hall. No expense was spared on “modern” luxuries and construction was completed for “a trifle over $100,000.”

  • 1907
    • During the population boom in Seattle, Secretary of War and future US President William Howard Taft visited The Rainier Club while the Clubhouse expanded to the east to create a banquet space for guests and a private drawing room for member spouses.

  • 1909
    • 41 Rainier Club members served as officers for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and hosted planning meetings for the Exposition, held at the now University of Washington campus. Club members Col. Blethen, J.W. Clise and Edward Curtis served on the AYP Exposition Art selection committee leading to the Club’s purchase of Frank Benson’s Girl with a Veil. It is the only artwork from the exhibition remaining in Seattle.

  • 1929
    • Architect Carl F. Gould and Charles Bebb designed a new south wing retaining Kirtland Cutter's shaped gables while adding a Georgian-style entry and extensive Art Deco interior ornamentation.

  • 1937-1941
    • The Club survived The Great Depression and both World Wars thanks to the leadership of its first true manager, Eddie Carlson, who later went on to become a member and lead Westin Hotels, the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle and United Airlines.

  • 1945
    • Dr. Richard Fuller, executive director for the Seattle Art Museum and long standing art committee chair recommended and installed Edward Curtis photogravures to augment the Club’s arts and crafts framed platinum photograph collection.

  • 1962
    • The Rainier Club became an integral part of the Seattle World’s Fair which put the city on the world map. Many plans were first drawn, deals made and key participants entertained and recruited in the Clubhouse.

  • 1963
    • 20 members founded the Tuesday Night Hospitality hour to offer a weekly social opportunity. The longest continuing event in Club history was renamed after Club member General George S. Cook. The George S Cook Hospitality Mixer recognizes George’s hospitality and 35 years of regular attendance at the event.

  • 1966
    • The Rainier Club’s bylaws admitted only gentlemen born in the US into the membership until a tacit exclusion of foreign-born U.S. citizens was overcome when Saburo Nishimuro was named the Club’s first Japanese-American member.

  • 1976
    • The Rainier Club building is recognized by the US Department of Interiors as a landmark building of state significance and placed on the register of the National Historic Places by the Trust.

  • 1977
    • The Rainier Club’s bylaws were officially amended for women to be eligible for membership and Judge Betty Binns Fletcher became the first female member on August 22 of that year.

  • 1978
    • Luther Carr was nominated for membership and became the first African-American member.

  • 1986
    • The Rainier Club was officially recognized as a historical landmark by the City of Seattle. Starting out as a boarding house for ambitious bachelors and restaurant for members, the Clubhouse and membership are recognized as model stewards of historic preservation.

  • 1988
    • The Club celebrates its 100 year anniversary with an October Gala event which filled every level of the Clubhouse and recognized the anniversary by publishing its history in a leather bound book written by local historian Walt Crowley.

  • 1991
    • As part of a $4.1 million renovation, the Club designed, and provided the membership, personalized professional training services in its expanded fifth floor Health Club facility.

  • 1993
    • U.S. President Bill Clinton held two Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meetings with the prime minister of Japan and president of China at The Rainier Club. They were the first APEC meetings in the U.S., and the first high-level U.S. meetings with China since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The press conference, with nine heads of state, established the Club for many years as the only building outside of the White House that had housed more heads of state.

  • 1995
    • Anne V. Farrell is elected as the first woman president of the Club.

  • 2000
    • The Board of Trustees established the program to honor a Club Laureate annually, in recognition of their distinguished national or international achievements in the visual, literary or performing arts. The founding honoree was author Jonathan Raban and is recognized as “Master of the Word.” The program continues to be one of the largest annual Club events.

  • 2003
    • To support the public benefit of the nationally recognized landmark building, the Club founded the Rainier Club 501(c)3 Historic Foundation to provide members and the public the opportunity to preserve the historic building established in 1904.

  • 2005
    • Shared resident membership was adopted in the Bylaws to broaden the membership to include a current spouse or adult domestic partner residing in the same household.

  • 2008
    • The Rainier Arts and Library Foundation was established by the Club with the objective of acquiring and conserving artistically and culturally significant property, with an emphasis on the history of Rainier Club members, Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region.

  • 2010
    • E Pluribus Unum program was established by the Board, one person standing out among many others, honoring the achievements of members recognizing an indisputably outstanding contribution by a member to the community, nation or society in any field. James Huntley, Robert Gates and William Ruckelshaus are recipients of the award.


      Robert Gates in the Fireside Lounge.

  • Today
    • The Rainier Club is proud to serve an engaging and diverse membership, which reflects the population of our modern city, while continuing to stand as a monument of Seattle's history. The Club still serves in its original capacity offering civic leaders, entrepreneurs, and dignitaries the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company, recreate, and dine within the sanctuary of a magnificent Clubhouse.