The historic Hotel Sorrento in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district has long attracted explorers and eccentrics. Apparel merchant Samuel Rosenberg built the Sorrento in 1909, but ran into financial difficulties soon after opening and decided agriculture was more to his taste. So he traded his new hotel for a 240-acre orchard along the Rogue River in Oregon.
A frequent visitor in the 1930s, Alice Toklas lived nearby in the wealthy First Hill neighborhood. Toklas was a patron and the companion of Gertrude Stein, whom she met in Europe. The two concocted the idea for Stein to write “The Autobiography of Alice Toklas” as something that might be a commercial success, which Stein desperately needed at the time. The book was a hit and Toklas also became a celebrity with the its success.
The Feel of Old Seattle at the Hotel Sorrento
The couple lived in Paris until Stein’s death in 1946. After Stein’s passing Toklas needed to make a living of her own. So drawing on lessons she had absorbed from Stein she wrote and published “The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook”. One recipe became quite famous: a brownie containing nuts, fruit, spices, and marijuana. Yes, long before the drug wars of the 1980s marijuana was a quaint little herb whose medicinal qualities were quite commonly and happily used for all manner of ailments.