(originally the Multnomah Hotel)
Architect: Gibson & Cahill/restoration: SERA Architects, 1912
Multnomah Hotel was the largest building in Portland when it opened, and it was the biggest hotel in the city until 1961. Usually described as "American Renaissance," the light-colored brick building has a three-wing design with accompanying light courts, enabling Multnomah Hotel to proclaim, "Every room an outside room."
Take a stroll around inside, as the lobby still has its original two dozen marble columns marked "MH." The original terrazzo floor (a mix of cement and marble chips) is beneath the current carpet. The Arcadian Garden in the lower floors is an original room (complete with fountain) that was designed for cabaret entertaining. The wall that divides the space now was installed in the 1990s as part of earthquake "proofing" the structure.
* Architect Frank B. Gibson specialized in crematories and mortuaries. Go figure. Alterations to this building over the years have included work by Pietro Belluschi and Richard Sundeleaf.
The original owner of the hotel went bankrupt less than a year after it opened, and the next owner did so after three years. Western Hotels Inc. ran the hotel from 1931 to 1963 under their company slogan of "Intelligence, Integrity, Intestinal fortitude." (Urp.) From 1965 to 1992, government offices were housed in this building. Finally, in the 1990s, the hotel was purchased and faithfully reconverted back to a hotel. How faithfully? Well, the lobby's plaster was even restored by the great-grandson of the original contractor. (With a budget of $60 million, one can afford to do the job right.) It's now the flagship hotel in its chain.
* In 1912, Silas Christofferson built a wooden runway on the roof of the Multnomah Hotel and launched a biplane from it. He landed minutes later in Vancouver. He was helping publicize the Rose Festival. (Christofferson died in 1916 flying a test plane.) Eighty-three years later, the flight was replicated to trumpet the hotel's re-opening.
In addition to a bevy of other U.S. presidents, notable guests include John F. Kennedy (who gave an impromptu speech from a balcony when campaigning in 1960); Charles Lindbergh (feted here in 1927, after he landed The Spirit of St. Louis at Swan Island); and Elvis Presley (1957). In the early 1940s, New York urban planner Robert Moses holed up here, gathering information on how to make Portland "more drivable."Less Text