SPOKANE, Wash. - During the holiday season, families from all over the Inland Northwest flock to the historic Davenport Hotel to experience the decorations in Spokane's grandest hotel. And, when they do, they're often greeted by a living connection to Spokane's past.
In a bright red coat and top hat, doorman John Reed greets visitors to the historic hotel. He has a smile for everyone, despite the extreme cold in the days before Christmas. Many who come here visit the hotel just to see him.
"He's iconic here at the Davenport with his red coat and top hat," said Davenport marketing director Matt Jensen. "When you walk in here, he's the first person you see at the door."
And, it has been that way for decades. Now 86, Reed was first hired when he was just 13 years old; interviewed by the man who built this hotel all those years ago.
"Mr. Davenport hired me in the main dining room," Reed said.
Sitting in the lobby with him is like going back in time. He's seen this hotel through good times and bad. He's met celebrities like Rock Hudson and presidents dating back to John F. Kennedy. He's most proud to talk about the little touches that make this place so special.
"Back in the early days, when you went to the cashier, you got brand new paper money," Reed recalled. "The silver coins were always shined."
He started as a bus boy and was a bellman in the 1950's. He left for awhile, but always came back. All told, he's spent 63 years in this building. Even when it sat shuttered, nearly demolished.
"When the hotel closed June 30, 1985, there was a crew of us who had to maintain the building and have it ready for show."
He's astounded by the work Walt and Karen Worthy have done to bring this grand hotel back to being the center of downtown Spokane.
Reed doesn't talk much about his private life. We know he was married and lost his wife some years ago. To him, the Davenport and its staff are his home and his family. He knows more about this hotel than anyone else; into its doors, he's welcoming new generations of adoring fans.
"I enjoy meeting people, talking to people. I meet people from all over the world," Reed said. "I have my picture taken constantly; I'm in homes all over the world."
So, how long will he continue this tradition?
"As long as they'll have me."
He's part of this place, after all. A part of the Davenport's history and a living reminder of Spokane's past. He knows his old boss Louis Davenport would be proud of what the hotel has become.
And, maybe Louis would also be proud to see the face of his hotel in the man he hired all those years ago.
"Each day is an exciting day," Reed said. "Besides, it's what keeps me going."
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