Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (1909): Hoo-Hoo House

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 6/16/2008
  • Essay 8655

The Hoo-Hoo House was built by the Hoo-Hoo, a lumberman's fraternity, for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition in Seattle in 1909. The exposition took place between June 1 and October 16, 1909, drawing more than three million people. Visitors came from around the state, the nation, and the world to view hundreds of educational exhibits, stroll the lushly manicured grounds, and be entertained on the Pay Streak midway, while Seattle promoted itself as a gateway to the rich resources of Alaska, the Yukon, and Asia. The Hoo-Hoo House was open to Hoo-Hoo members and lumbermen during the exposition. The house was particularly known for its two large ornamental cats in front of the building with green electric eyes which shone brightly at night.  After the exposition ended, the building served as the University of Washington Faculty Club until it was demolished in 1959.

The Hoo-Hoo

The International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo was organized on January 21, 1892, in Gurdon, Arkansas. The organization was formed to provide a unified social organization for lumbermen (later expanded to include those employed in all aspects of the forest products industry).  The Hoo-Hoo name came from one of its founders, Bolling Arthur Johnson, who coined the moniker in describing an odd tuft of hair, greased and twisted to a point, atop the otherwise bald head of fellow Hoo-Hoo Charles McCarer.  The name Hoo-Hoo became a buzzword among the Hoo-Hoo to describe anything unusual.

The Hoo-Hoo shunned conventionality. They adopted the black cat as their mascot, and in honor of the cat’s legendary nine lives, gave the number nine a lofty status in their organization. There were nine men on the Board of Directors; the members held their meetings on the ninth day of the ninth month; annual dues were set at 99 cents; and the initiation fee was set at $9.99.  Although membership was originally planned to never exceed 9,999 men, more than 99,999 individuals have since become members of the Hoo-Hoo. The organization still exists today (2008).

Hoo-Hoo House

The Hoo-Hoo built a two-story wood frame house with a partial basement for the A-Y-P Exposition. The house was designed by Seattle architect Ellsworth Storey (1879-1960), and was commonly called the Hoo-Hoo House.  It was considered architecturally significant for its day, as the house marked the introduction of “prairie architecture” to Seattle; it was a surprisingly modern structure that contrasted with other buildings at the exposition that were in the “American Renaissance” style then in vogue.  The building was located on the east side of the exposition grounds (now the south central part of the University of Washington campus, behind where the student union building is today), and cost $8,500 to build, with most of the cost covered by $9.99 donations from Hoo-Hoo members.  

Two huge ornamental black cats, backs arched and tails curled menacingly, stood at the entrance to the Hoo-Hoo House, with green electric eyes that glowed at night. Two more cats crowned the gables atop the house.  There was just one entrance to the house, and it came with a latchstring, the only building with such an entrance at the entire exposition. The basement to the house served as the janitor’s quarters.

There was a cloakroom and a kitchen on the north side of the first floor, and the secretary’s office was on the south end of the floor, but the 25-by-50 foot clubroom was the dominant room on the first floor. Finished in Douglas fir, the clubroom was painted in shades of forest browns and light forest greens; the walls were fully paneled. An enormous fireplace, 10 feet across (though hobs on both sides reduced the actual firebox opening to six and a half feet) and six and a half feet deep, was on the east side of the clubroom, directly across from the entrance.

The clubroom was lighted with large electric candles in massive black iron candlesticks, and by rectangular lanterns suspended from the ceiling beams.  The lanterns all had a black cat with red or green eyes in each lantern’s four green glass panels. There was a veranda and open terrace on the east side of the house (great views of Lake Washington and the Cascades) that stretched around to both the north and south sides of the building.  

A double stairway led from the clubroom up to the second floor.  Upstairs, the gentlemen’s room (a smoking room), complete with redwood walls, was on the north side of the floor, while the ladies’ parlor graced the floor’s opposite end. A well stretched from the second story ceiling of the house to the clubroom floor below, with casement windows that opened into both sides of the well from the rooms.  A musician’s balcony was also on the second floor. 

Bandersnatch's Fright

The Hoo-Hoo House was built to be a large clubhouse, open only to Hoo-Hoo members and lumbermen during the exposition. It was a big draw, considering that no small number of exposition visitors were lumbermen. By late July more than 3,000 lumbermen and Hoo-Hoo members had registered at the house. Hoo-Hoo dances at the house every Saturday evening became so popular that before long it became necessary to invite only a certain number of members to the dances each week. The house also served as an exhibit for Washington state fir and spruce products and for Seattle-made furniture, fixtures, and decorations.  

Appropriately enough, the Hoo-Hoo dedicated the house on June 9, 1909, the ninth day of the exposition. After the dedication the Hoo-Hoo held a wedding in their new quarters -- attended, naturally, by 99 persons. Following the vows, the members gave the Hoo-Hoo yell, scaring the bejeezus out of the big black house cat, Bandersnatch, who leapt out the door or the window (accounts differ) and raced off into the darkness. 

Hoo-Hoo Day at the exposition was held precisely three months later, on September 9, 1909. The Hoo-Hoo House was lavishly decorated for the big day -- the Times wrote that “nine, the mystic number of the fraternity, was everywhere” -- and the Hoo-Hoo held a private celebration attended by hundreds.  But memories of the Hoo-Hoo and the Hoo-Hoo House lingered long after the exposition was gone, and the building itself survived for half a century, serving as the University of Washington’s Faculty Club until it was demolished in April 1959.

Sources:  “Mystic ‘9’ And Cats At Wedding,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 10, 1909;  “Hoo Hoo Has Wedding and House Dedication,” Seattle Daily Times, June 10, 1909;  “Thousands Visit Hoo Hoo House At Fair,” Ibid., July 25, 1909, p. 2;  “Hoo Hoo Has Big Concatenation At Fair,” Ibid., September 9, 1909, p. 13;  “Written Historical and Descriptive Data, Historical American Buildings Survey,” National Park Service (now stored in the Library of Congress), website accessed June 11, 2008, (

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