Year In Review: Winthrop Hotel

For nearly 200 people living on fixed incomes, the 84-year-old, 12-story former Winthrop Hotel in downtown Tacoma is an oasis.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s easy living.

Nearby merchants have long complained the Winthrop is a magnet for criminal activity that stunts the economic hopes of small business owners. The building has consistently topped a list of locations for downtown emergency service calls. In August, a series of fires were set in the building by someone later charged with six counts of first-degree arson.

Some want to see the Winthrop restored as an historic hotel; others point to the building’s track record as a magnet for crime and emergency service calls, and want it shut down; and still others want city leaders to find alternate housing so residents aren’t concentrated in one location.

In May, Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) announced that it was asked by Prium (the current building owner who had originally planned to convert the building into a four-star hotel) if it wanted to purchase the building. THA is currently weighing that decision.

Between June and September, the Index published a series of interviews with some of the Winthrop’s residents to find out what they thought of all the focus on their building, learn more about what it is like to live in the Winthrop, and gain inside perspectives on the building’s safety and future development.

Otha Adams described living in the building while working part-time and studying graphic design at Tacoma Community College; Kerry Hudson has spent the past two years at the Winthrop trying to recover from a long-term illness; Glenn Grigsby has lived in the Winthrop for 15 years and has seen it all; John Heffler is better known to residents as “Yo-Yo Man”; and David Allen landed at the Winthrop after surviving two disabling car accidents.

“You don’t know from month-to-month if you’re going to have a place to live because of all the different dealings that are going on,” said Allen of the Winthrop’s possible sale. “The future is unclear. My nerves stay up.”

Winthrop Hotel resident Glenn Grigsby. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Winthrop Hotel, click on the following links:

In 2009, the Tacoma Daily Index published a series of interviews with many residents of the Winthrop Hotel. To read the complete series, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengers; third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright; and second-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State. His work has also appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at