AKA: Court Hotel, Portland, OR

Structure Type: built works - dwellings -public accommodations - hotels

Designers: Whidden and Lewis, Architects (firm); Ion Lee Lewis (architect); William Marcy Whidden (architect)

Dates: constructed 1882-1890, demolished 1951

8 stories

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SW 6th Avenue and SW Morrison Street
Downtown, Portland, OR 97205

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The Portland Hotel stood to the west of the Pioneer Courthouse on what is now Pioneer Courthouse Square.


This 8-story, 326-room hotel occupied the heart of Portland's Downtown for many years. It was built in two phases, the first begun by the Northern Pacific Railway President Henry Villard in 1882; Villard's fortunes eroded during the troubled economy of the mid-1880s, leaving him unable to complete his hotel project. A group of prominent Portland businessmen reopened the building campaign late in the 1880s, and spent about $1 million to complete it in 1890. It became an important symbol for the growing city of its establishment and served to house well-heeled guests seeking to relocate here.

Building History

Located on the site of Portland's Central School, that was later moved one block north, the Portland Hotel was a downtown landmark for 61 years. Construction began on a grand central hotel in Portland in 1882 underwritten by the railroad tycoon, Henry Villard (1835-1900). Villard's fortune disappeared in the Depression of 1882-1885, and his funding for the hotel managed only to erect its foundations. The foundations lay fallow for five years before a syndicate of 150 local residents, including businessmen George B. Markle, Jr., (1857-1914), Simeon Gannett Reed (1830-1895), Frank Dekum (1829-1894), William Sargent Ladd (1826-1893), Henry W. Corbett (1827-1903), Henry Weinhard (1830-1904) and Henry Failing (1834-1898), pooled money to resume the building campaign in the late 1880s.

Younger than many of the other leading businessmen, the Pennsylvania-born Markle, who descended from a wealthy family active in coal mining and banking, played a leading role in restarting the Portland Hotel's building campaign. H.W. Scott's History of Portland (1890) said of Markle's role: "One of the most important services rendered by Mr. Markle was the part he bore in the organization of the Portland Hotel Company. Mr. Henry Villard, then president of the Northern Pacific Railroad, began the erection of a hotel in Portland, in 1883, such as the importance of the city demanded. His financial embarassment, which occured soon after, put a stop to the work, and for years thereafter, although the lack of a hotel, such as Mr. Villard proposed to erect, was one of the greatest needs of the city, no one seemed to have sufficient courage to undertake the enterprise. It was left to Mr. Markle to take hold of the matter, and in his energetic and practical manner, in a few days a large number of subscriptions to the capital stockof the Portland Hotel Company was secured. The company was soon after incorporated and work began upon the building, which has since been completed, giving to Portland one of the finest hotels on the Pacific slope." (See History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers, H.W. Scott, ed., [Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Company, 1890], p. 630.)

Markle, et al., commissioned the new Portland architectural firm of Whidden and Lewis to design their hotel, that opened on 04/07/1890. William Marcy Whidden worked for the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White in the early 1880s, when plans were prepared for Henry Villard. Whidden adapted these plans to suit leaders of the Portland syndicate that resumed the building process in 1889. Whidden called the style of his new hotel to be "'Old French with some modifications from the Dutch.'" (See Oregon Live.com, "The Portland Hotel: Once the place to see and be seen," published 04/02/2011, accessed 11/29/2018.

An advertisement in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/04/1915, (p. 16), announced that the Portland Hotel was “under new management.” Ad copy stated: “Portland’s famous hotel, occupying a block in the heart of the city. All outside guest rooms and suites, with bath. The favorite hotel for tourists. Accessible to all lines of traffic. Appetizing menus in dining and grill rooms. Newly improved and furnished throughout. Fine new sample rooms for commercial travelers. Rates moderate. Geo. C. Ober, Manager.”

Owners of the Meier and Frank Department Store in Portland purchased the hotel in 1944, and operated it for about six years before shutting it down in 1950. The grand hotel was demolished the following year to make way for a two-floor parking garage for the Meier and Frank store. This parking lot was removed in 1981 when construction began on Courthouse Square, now occupying the site.

Building Notes

Two notes in the Sunday Oregonian newspaper of 11/06/1892 stated: "The Hotel Portland will make special rates to regular boarders. Mr. Barmore will take pleasure in waiting upon those seeking good quarters. The hotel will be kept upt the highest standards of excellence under the new management." The second notice read: "The Portland Hotel Pharmacy never close their place of business, They have been keeping open all night since May 1891." (See "City News in Brief," Sunday Oregonian, 11/06/1892, p. 5.)

Edward Boyce served as the President of the Portland Hotel Company in 1923. F.C. Harrington was the manager. At this time, the hotel operated a pharmacy, run by Raymond E. Taylor. (See Portland, Oregon, City Directory, 1923, p. 1281.)


A plan to add a 12-story hotel tower to the courtyard of the Portland Hotel #2 was proposed c. 1910 but never erected.


The Portland Hotel #2 was demolished in 08/1951.

PCAD id: 22288