The Heathman Hotel
The city of Portland began rather inauspiciously in 1843 when William Overton and Boston lawyer Asa Lovejoy beached their canoe on the banks of the Willamette River. Lacking funds, Overton borrowed twenty-five cents from Lovejoy to stake the claim and promised him a share in the claim in return. Soon bored, Overton sold his share to Frances Pettyjohn, a native of Portland, Maine. Overton and Pettyjohn disagreed on whose hometown would become the inspiration for their newly cleared land and decided to flip a coin – the “Portland Penny”- to settle the issue. Pettyjohn, bested his partner and the die was cast.
Portland’s early years were full of lively characters, such as Sweet Mary, the madam of the town’s floating bordello, and Joseph “Bunco” Kelly, a notorious hotelier who intoxicated local young men and sold them to ship captains in need of crew members. The turn of the last century ushered in an era of considerably more respectability and prosperity. The burgeoning lumber mills made millionaires out of men like Simon Benson, who personally commissioned twenty elegant drinking fountains for the downtown area when he discovered his workers were imbibing alcohol during the day, due to a lack of fresh drinking water.
By 1927, Portland was home to lumber barons and railroad magnates who desired a hotel befitting their status. The Italian Renaissance hotel was a popular center of activity and drew the attention of artistic minds from its very earliest days. The Heathman’s graceful Art Deco interior offered the finest in hospitality – a far cry from the “services” provided by Bunco Kelly and his contemporaries. Fully restored in the 1980s, the hotel is renowned for its impressive art collection, ranging from 18th century canvases to works by pop artist Andy Warhol.