Portland, Oregon, Landmark Hotels

by Nikki Jardin
Landmark Portland hotels provide a look into the city's past.

Landmark Portland hotels provide a look into the city's past.

Bridges image by photosfromoregon from Fotolia.com

Portland, Oregon, boasts several hotels that have been serving guests since the turn of the 20th century. These primarily four-star hotels provide distinguished luxury and proximity to many of Portland’s favorite attractions, dining spots and premium shopping. In many cases, their landmark status also offers a glimpse into the history of the "City of Roses."

The Heathman Hotel

Constructed in 1927, this independently owned luxury hotel underwent a $4 million "green” renovation in 2010, making it 99 percent landfill free. In a review, "The New York Times" said, “What guests may not know is that the tea court’s teal rococo-pattern couches are made from rubber tree sap and soy-based foam.” General Manager Chris Erikson jokes, “In an earthquake we could eat the furniture.” The Heathman has made the "Travel & Leisure" list of "Top 500 Hotels in the World" and has received a four-diamond award for 25 consecutive years. Fodor’s says, “From the teak-paneled lobby hung with Warhol prints to the rosewood elevators and marble fireplaces, this hotel exudes refinement.” The Heathman is in the heart of downtown Portland, adjacent to the Performing Arts Center and Schintzer Concert Hall, and within walking distance of the Portland Art Museum and Pioneer Courthouse Square, affectionately known as “Portland’s Living Room.”

The Governor Hotel

In 1905, Portland’s Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition began bringing interest and money to the region, along with tourists and investors. Several hotels began cropping up to welcome visitors, with the Governor, known then as the Seward Hotel, opening its opulent doors in 1909. Now a notable “architectural treasure,” it has a place on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Historic Hotel of America -- the hotel is described on the website as offering “A quiet, inviting atmosphere that belies its proximity to the bustle of the downtown’s financial, theater and shopping districts.” The hotel underwent renovation in the early 1990s and reopened as the Governor Hotel in 1992, but kept much of the original architectural and decorative touches, such as the intricately detailed wall murals describing the Lewis and Clark journey and many of the wall sconces and wood paneling. The Governor also houses Jake’s Grill, a landmark restaurant in its own right, and noted by "The Oregonian" as “the classic combination of elegance, informality and history.” Serving stick-to-your-ribs favorites such as meat loaf, pot roast and prime rib, this traditional grill remains a local favorite.

Benson Hotel

Located in the Pearl District, within walking distance to boutique shopping, arts and entertainment and fine dining, the luxury Benson Hotel has been stylishly welcoming guests since 1913. Financed by lumber baron Simon Benson and sparing no expense, the hotel’s more distinctive design elements are still in place, including paneling and pillars using rare -- now extinct -- Russian Circassia walnut. Other appointments include Austrian crystal chandeliers and an Italian marble staircase, framed with an ornate cast-iron railing. Renovated in 1991, the Benson holds a four-star status and a listing on the Register of Historic Places. It houses standard guestrooms along with junior suites, several penthouse suites and two grand suites. Its location in the Pearl District offers access to the Portland Streetcar, which travels to the waterfront and is around the corner from another Portland landmark, Powell’s Books, the largest independently owned bookstore in the world.

McMenamins Kennedy School

As a hotel, the Kennedy School has been around only since 1997, but its a favorite among the McMenamins brothers' chain of quirky, imaginative hotels and pubs. Intrigued by reusing existing structures, the brothers take pleasure in renovating buildings while keeping the original façade and flair. A former elementary school from 1915 until the late 1970s, the Kennedy School now houses several hotel rooms, a movie house, restaurant and pub, soaking pools and a “detention center,” where guests can enjoy a cigar and sample whiskey, brandy and gin from the McMenamins distillery. A Fodor’s review summed up the property: “With all of the guest rooms occupying former classrooms, complete with the original chalkboards and cloakrooms, the McMenamins brothers have created a multi-use facility that is both luxurious and fantastical.” Located in the northeast Portland, this lodging is close to trendy Alberta Street for boutique shopping and distinct local eateries, and is on major public transit lines for access to downtown. It’s also within walking distance of both Fernhill and Alberta parks for morning jogging or evening strolls.

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