History of Portland Oregon Hotels

Morrison street, into which enters the bridge-way from across the Willamette, begins with the Esmond Hotel of five stories, on the north, and W. S. Ladd’s five story brick, on the south. The St. Charles Hotel stands on the south side, and on First street handsome brick blocks appear-except that on the southeast corner, apparently as a relic of ancient architecture, remains the old wooden, clapp-boarded two story Occidental Hotel. The street continuing westward is of a very uneven character. Fine three and four story brick and wooden houses, alternate with one story fish and fruit stalls and coffee houses. On Fifth street, however, the block devoted to the U. S. Custom House and Postoffice is found, and the building itself, of bluish-gray Bellingham Bay sandstone, two stories and a half in height, surmounted by a dome of glass, is massive and handsome. Its spacious dimensions and fine proportions are much enhanced in appearance by its position on the brow of the incline, which having been carefully cut and sodded presents a banked and terrace-like front as much as ten feet above the level at the crossing of Fifth street and Morrison. By its wide walks, its green turf and its slight adornment of exotic trees, it possesses an entirety and pose, or repose, and a perspective of its own. It is in truth a very satisfactory and admirable building, well representing the benign way of the central government.

Immediately west, massive and enormous, occupying a full block of brick resting on a stone foundation, seven stories in height, with a multitude of bow windows, is the special pride of the city. This is the Hotel Portland, just completed at a cost of $750,000. This sum was raised by subscriptions, and in a peculiar sense the building belongs to the people. The structure was begun in 1883, during the great “boom” consequent upon the building of the O. R. & N. R. R., and the completion of the Northern Pacific. Upon the collapse in the stock of the Oregon & Transcontinental, soon after, work was suspended and the foundation was left destitute and almost unprotected, and was called for a time the “Villard Ruins.” It was a lonely pile, useful chiefly to the circus and theatrical manager as a fine wall for sticking flaming posters, and a kind of gloomy horror was attached to it from its having been in the course of time the scene of a mysterious murder. The absolute necessity of a hotel fit for the accommodation of the tourist travel to Portland, was earnestly and unremittingly pressed upon the attention of the citizens by the leading papers, and was recognized by the capitalists of the city. Fortunately no outside party was found willing to finish the work, and the people themselves took it into their own hands, thereby rearing something of which they feel proud. Arrangements were completed and the building begun in 1888. The pile now finished presents two hundred feet solid upon both Morrison and Yamhill streets. Facing Sixth street it embraces a deep court and in the angles of the roof rise its turrets. The roof is steep, of slate, with a multitude of dormer windows, and is relieved of uniformity by massive brick chimneys. The prospect from aloft is commanding, affording a certain openness and airiness not realized even from the Heights. If one were disposed to be critical, he might raise the question whether the smooth and narrow curls of frieze and cornice quite satisfied the expectations raised by the massive and rugged rock-work of the foundation, and he might be so unreasonable as to wish that a breadth of one hundred feet lay all about the structure, for lawn and drive-way, for trees and fountains, and that he might have larger foreground to see the hotel. But in this last particular, he would be clearly allowing a taste for the spacious premises of the sea-shore hotel to dominate the warmer spaces of city walls, or perhaps be anticipating the next great structure of the kind, to be placed on some rock-bound tract as that of Jacob Kamm’s on Twelfth street.

In truth one finds himself here in the midst of large buildings, for on the block north of the hotel is the grand new Opera House of Judge Marquam.

South of the hotel, very much embowered in trees, is the quiet edifice of the church of our Father belonging to the Unitarian Society, whose pulpit has been occupied from the first by Rev. T. L. Eliot, who has ever been prominent in works of progress and humanity. Following Morrison street out to Tenth through much shade of maple trees, and just completed but not costly edifices, one runs upon the new circle of churches. Here is the old Tabernacle built previously to accommodate the great audiences that assembled to listen to the preaching of Mrs. Hampton. Since that time it has been in constant use for mass meetings of the religious societies and temperance folks. The building itself is simply a square box, something like a barn, with windows only in the hip roof. Looking one block down to Alder street, on the opposite side, one sees the great stone church of the Presbyterians, recently finished at a cost of more than $100,000. The tall spire is most imposing, and the gothic window and roof is of excellent effect. The work is exceedingly fine, in block built bluish gray sandstone and blue stained mortar. South, and on Taylor street, is the Grace Methodist

Church building, partly of stone. On Main street, still on 10th, is the Jewish Synagogue, of wood, in gothic style, but with front finish in the Moorish. Passing northward on 9th street, to the neighbor-hood of Clay, one finds the edifice’ of the Second Presbyterian or Calvary Church, in some respects the handsomest, most graceful and attractive of any in the city. The interior finish, vaulted and . in white, or inspiration, tint is very delightful. At the end of Morrison street is the magnificent High School building, accommodating, graceful and convenient.

Sweeping out to the hills with occasional vacant lots, or blocks, but built for the most part with houses of great uniformity of excellence, although not so magnificent or occupying so much space as in the north end, this portion of the city with churches and school buildings, is the most substantial center of the residences. Some are costly. The umbrage from the shade trees, mainly of maple, is deep and in places too heavy, the pointed poplars ever bending this way or that, in the breezes, and in selected localities elms and box elder vary the artistic ornamentation. On the lawns, evergreens cut exceedingly prim, ” make and mar” the beauty of the scene. As is common to weak and suffering humanity, the idea that to attain beauty a plant or tree must either be bloated or shorn out of its natural form, has here, as elsewhere free course. Passing down the hill on Jefferson street, back to the river, one discovers the palatial seat of W. S. Ladd and J. N. Dolph, with those of James Steel and Senator Corbett and Henry Failing, so near as to seem to belong to the locality. South of Yamhill street, on the river front, there are no notable buildings, and out to South Portland, while the city is fairly well built, there is nothing striking, unless it be the iron works, as far as the Marquam gulch, notable for big bridges. South Portland, on a romantic high level embossed upon the angle of the hills, which here round off in strangely retrousse points, circles about its fine school houses, and has many ambitious homes and cottages. There is a peculiar air of thrift and neatness about this quarter which speaks volumes for the future.

Of East Portland, great in the future, a word should be said. The front is repellent, being built largely over a lowland and the gulches. The buildings are yet largely of wood, and the streets are likewise of cheap material, and usually in ill repair. But “casting an eye of pity on this first front of the place one finds the further streets nicely improved, a large number of neat cottages and some few handsome houses, good school buildings and a number of home-like churches. The lay of the land is very fine, that portion on the north, known as Holladay Addition, being exceptionally high and handsome.. Toward Mt. Tabor, for nearly three miles, the surface is rolling, excellent for building, and is laid off in an indefinite number of additions and parks. Sage real estate dealers insist that this plain will in time be the most dense portion of the city of Portland. Extending to the eastward half way toward the mount is Sunnyside, a small place, situated directly on the Mount Tabor Motor Line. As for motor lines this section is gridironed with them, and from the preparations made by capitalists for the accommodation of population, this basin has the right to look up. But Tabor itself is handsomely improved and delightfully still, with an atmosphere at the summit of the most healing and balsamic purity. South of East Portland is Brookland, a fine ridge looking down on the deep Willamette and Ross Island. Farther south are Sellwood and Willsburg. Back from the river on a tract of rolling land is Waverly.

With proper improvement the east side of the river has the greatest possibilities and when Portland needs the space of Philadelphia, can furnish sixty square miles for her use. It is as vet crude-with much that is fine-not being wholly out of its swaddling clothes.

The cemeteries, to close our view as ends the brief scene of life, are located on the east side of the river, or on the hills to the south. The oldest now used is Lone Fir, one mile east of the Willamette. The significance of the name is from a solitary. fir tree of large dimensions overlooking the grounds. The company, incorporating for purposes of sepulture, was organized in 1866, and the sight was then far removed and very quiet. Some forty acres are set off and the tract is well improved. It is for the most part thickly set with graves, and proper monuments commemorate those laid here to rest.

A number of the stones, shafts, vaults and ornaments are costly. But once so quiet in its thickets, the place has now become crowded by the residence portion of East Portland, a much frequented high-way being on one side, and the Mt. Tabor Motor line, with frequent trains on the other. St. Mary’s Cemetery (Catholic) lies across the way north, but is no longer used.

In 1882, a large and beautiful cemetery was provided, and a company organized, embracing the most wealthy men in the city, ex-Senator H. W. Corbett and W. S. Ladd being of the number. The site chosen was on the hilltops, four miles south of the city, above the macadam road. The grounds extend to the east of the eminence where there is a perfect view. The spot is now, as it ever will be, peaceful, near the sky, and if the departed still care for the beauties of earth, affording them the best that Portland can give. By special provision the grounds are to be tastefully and even elaborately improved; nothing unsightly or uncouth to be allowed, and the graves of those whose friends are absent still to be kept green and adorned with flowers. It is a graceful feeling of the human heart that would make a little border land between this world and the unseen, and in this place cemented to this purpose by the people of Portland, are found all the elements appertaining to this interest. To the same interests are the other cemeteries, Greenwood (Masonic) west of Riverview; the new Jewish cemetery on the Boone Ferry road, four miles south; the Ohavi Sholem and the B’nai B’rith cemeteries lie one-half mile further.

From this brief view of our city, indicating opulence and prosperity it is not to be inferred that the career of Portland has all been easy and plain sailing. Aside from the envy of other cities, great calamities, the casualties of nature, or the carelessness or destructiveness of man, have not been unknown.

Water has a double chance in the city, coming down the Willamette in the winter, and up the Willamette from, or rather backed up by the Columbia, in the summer. The winter freshets are seldom at all troublesome. Even the most violent floods seldom raising the river more than twenty-five feet above low water mark-the water rushing swiftly by to fall into the Columbia, which rarely rises during the winter, or early spring, its sources then being ice-bound. In 1861, the time of the great flood, which carried away old Champoeg near French Prairie, and many houses and other buildings along the Willamette, gave our city a slight reminder, taking away Lownsdale’s wharf and perhaps other structures. This flood was repeated in 1890. The main trouble came from logs and great drift shooting by, endangering bridges, ferries and their cables, and causing steamers to skip hither and yonder. Some of the small crafts have suffered at such times, being sunk, or compelled, as in one case at least, to jump over a log to avoid being rocked and perhaps upset. It is only rarely, however, that any difficulty occurs, and by proper precautions all may be avoided. The rise of the Columbia, while not so violent, is much more of an occasion. It often brings our river up twenty feet and sometimes as much as twenty-nine above lowest water. It is not the turbid Columbia water, but the clear blue fluid of the Willamette, yet when the rise is very rapid the current is sometimes thrown back, making the water run slowly up stream. In old times, before the lower part of the city was raised to its present level, the rise of the Columbia was looked for with great anxiety. If a flood was reported on the way, the lower stories of the warehouses, the cellars of the stores, and even the lower stories of the houses in the north end were hastily cleared of goods. As the water rose into the streets, as it did a number of times, the lower city was abandoned by business. The steamers came up to the upper docks, and temporary walks for the accommodation of pedestrians were made of planks on trestles. The Nicholson pavement became a great care, for it showed a disposition to rise and, float off, and to be kept in place had to be freighted down with rocks. The R. R. depots became useless and the cars stopped tip town. While the people of the north end were in the throes of such a disorder, like mice threatened with inundation, the south siders looked on with none too much commiseration, deeming it a just recompense for going to the swamps below town, in preference to the highlands on the south. In 1876 the flood was particularly high, and stood for weeks. It was deemed useless to trifle any longer, and the grade was raised to a point above danger, and the streets paved with Belgian blocks. The city is not yet rid of the trouble, however, for although the water seldom conies up to the streets at high times, the cellars are filled, leaving them foul and noisome with dirt, and the refuse of dead water as the flood subsides, and the sewers are rendered useless. This breeds an infinite amount of malaria, throws a multitude of bad odors into the dwelling houses and streets, and works vast injury to the health of the population. A dyke of masonry should be extended across the entire river front, excluding the water, and the sewers within should be kept clear by a system of steam pumps. In no other way can the trouble be removed. As population increases and the wastage is multiplied this will become imperative.


Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

Search Military Records - Fold3

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top