The Heathman Hotel

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Discover the Heathman Hotel, which has been welcoming travelers to Portland with timeless hospitiality since opening 1927.

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The Heathman Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1991, dates back to 1927.

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The Heathman Hotel was constructed during the “Roaring Twenties,” in which flappers, the radio, and the Art Deco movement defined the age. The history of the city of Portland began rather inauspiciously in 1842 when William Overton and Asa Lovejoy beached their canoe on the banks of the Willamette River. The two men agreed that the 640-acre plot of land would be ideal for the establishment of a town and subsequently filed a claim on the land. Soon after, Overton sold his share to merchant and pioneer Francis Pettyjohn for $50. This new town began to grow as other merchants and pioneers flocked to the area. Residents and passersby had several nicknames for the town, including "Stumptown" in reference to the numerous tree stumps that were left behind after trees were hastily cut down to make way for the citys rapid growth. "Stumptown" remains one of Portland's nicknames to this day.

However the town soon needed an official name. Pettyjohn was a native of Portland, Maine, and Lovejoy was born and raised in Boston, Massachusets. Both men wished to name this new town after thier respective hometowns and could not agree to a compromise. Over dinner on one evening in 1845, they decided to flip a coin to determine who would have the authority to name the growing town. After three tosses of a penny, the decision was made and Portland had a name.

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. The Heathman Hotel has remained a cultural fixture since opening in 1927, welcoming travelers to Portland with timeless hospitality bound in tradition and a rich appreciation of the arts. Today, nearly a century later, the Heathman has begun a new chapter under a gleaming renovation that pays homage to the city’s beloved history and the hotel’s role as muse to generations of travelers.

  • About the Location +

    The Heathman Hotel was constructed during the “Roaring Twenties,” in which flappers, the radio, and the Art Deco movement defined the age. The history of the city of Portland began rather inauspiciously in 1842 when William Overton and Asa Lovejoy beached their canoe on the banks of the Willamette River. The two men agreed that the 640-acre plot of land would be ideal for the establishment of a town and subsequently filed a claim on the land. Soon after, Overton sold his share to merchant and pioneer Francis Pettyjohn for $50. This new town began to grow as other merchants and pioneers flocked to the area. Residents and passersby had several nicknames for the town, including "Stumptown" in reference to the numerous tree stumps that were left behind after trees were hastily cut down to make way for the citys rapid growth. "Stumptown" remains one of Portland's nicknames to this day.

    However the town soon needed an official name. Pettyjohn was a native of Portland, Maine, and Lovejoy was born and raised in Boston, Massachusets. Both men wished to name this new town after thier respective hometowns and could not agree to a compromise. Over dinner on one evening in 1845, they decided to flip a coin to determine who would have the authority to name the growing town. After three tosses of a penny, the decision was made and Portland had a name.

    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. The Heathman Hotel has remained a cultural fixture since opening in 1927, welcoming travelers to Portland with timeless hospitality bound in tradition and a rich appreciation of the arts. Today, nearly a century later, the Heathman has begun a new chapter under a gleaming renovation that pays homage to the city’s beloved history and the hotel’s role as muse to generations of travelers.

    The original Heathman Hotel was built in 1926, located at the intersection of Park and Salmon streets in downtown Portland by contractor and hotelier, George Heathman. By the following year, Portland had become a burgeoning city with a demand for higher-end accommodations to meet the social station and needs of the affluent residents and travelers passing through. Given the success of the first hotel, Heathman started construction on a sister building. In 1927, the new Heathman Hotel opened its doors, just a block from the original. It was a ten-story concrete and brick structure, with decorative details in the Renaissance Revival-style. The second-story and upper-floor windows were trimmed in stone, and the lobby’s dark wood paneling extended to the mezzanine level.

    When the new Heathman opened, it was greeted with much fanfare, and The Oregon Journal described it as “Portland’s newest and most modern hotel.” They wrote: “Its planning, construction and general appointments are as modern as ingenuity and talent could possibly make it.” Unabashedly classic in spirit, the Heathman has always been a storied actor in the city’s artistic conversation, due to its location in the heart of Portland’s cultural district. In the hotel’s early years, from the 1930s to the 1950s, the mezzanine was home to the studios of Portland radio station, KOIN. Within those studios, described as the finest in the country, the station boasted a roster of musicians and entertainers larger than all other local stations combined, and, from their transmitters high above the nearby West Hills, they beamed their signal as far as California, Nevada and Idaho.

    In 1984, the Heathman underwent a major renovation, during which the original exterior and eucalyptus-paneled Tea Court Lounge were fully restored to their original glory. Also during this renovation, the hotel’s entrance was moved from Salmon Street to Broadway, enhancing its visibility, and the hotel dropped the "new" designation with guests and locals, henceforth referring to it simply as the Heathman Hotel. A second major renovation of all guestrooms and public spaces was completed in September 2018. Lighter, brighter and more contemporary, the new design is rooted in the building’s unique history, and pays homage to the hotel’s role as muse to generations of guests and locals alike. A member of Historic Hotels of America since 1991, it continues to be among Portland’s best holiday destinations.


  • About the Architecture +

    The Heathman Hotel displays some of the best Italian Renaissance Revival-style architecture in Portland. Italian Renaissance Revival architecture itself is a subset of a much large group of styles known simply as “Renaissance Revival.” Renaissance Revival architecture—sometimes referred to as "Neo-Renaissance”—is a group of architecture revival styles that date back to the 19th century. Neither Grecian nor Gothic in their appearance, Renaissance Revival-style architecture drew inspiration from a wide range of structural motifs found throughout Early Modern Western Europe. Architects in France and Italy were the first to embrace the artistic movement, who saw the architectural forms of the European Renaissance as an opportunity to reinvigorate a sense of civic pride throughout their communities. As such, those intellectuals incorporated the colonnades and low-pitched roofs of Renaissance-era buildings, with the characteristics of Mannerist and Baroque-themed architecture. Perhaps the greatest structural component to a Renaissance Revival-style building involved the installation of a grand staircase in a vein similar to those located at the Château de Blois and the Château de Chambord. This particular feature served as a central focal point for the design, often directing guests to a magnificent lobby or exterior courtyard. Yet, the nebulous nature of Renaissance Revival architecture meant that its appearance varied widely across Europe and North America. As such, historians today often find it difficult to provide a specific definition for the architectural movement. 


Image of Historian Stanley Turkel, Historic Hotels of America Image of Stanley Turkel's Built to Last, 100 Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi, Historic Hotels of America

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Nobody Asked Me, But… No.220;


Hotel History: The Heathman Hotel (1926), Portland, Oregon



By Stanley Turkel, CMHS



The original Heathman Hotel was built in 1926 one block from the current structure by George Heathman for $1 million. Because of the success of the original hotel, Heathman immediately started construction of a new 10-story concrete structure designed by the architectural firm of DeYoung and Raold. The New Heathman Hotel was designed in the Jacobean Revival style and was Portland’s largest construction project to that date. When it opened, Governor I. L. Patterson and Mayor George Luis Baker made dedication speeches while radio station KOIN featured a live band. The Oregon Journal described the Heathman Hotel as “Portland’s newest and most modern hotel. Its planning, construction and general appointments are as modern as human ingenuity and talent could possibly make it.”



Because it was located on Portland’s “Great White Way”, ablaze with theatre marquees, restaurants and shops, it became the focal point of downtown’s entertainment center.



George Heathman died at age 49, less than three years after the new Heathman Hotel was opened. His wife, Katherine and their two children remained active and retained an interest in the operations until Harry Heathman, George’s son, passed away in 1962.



By the 1950s, most of the commercial and retail establishments left downtown Portland for the suburbs. It was not until the late 1960s that city leaders sought to convince major retail stores to resume operating down town. In addition, the city created a performing arts center in the old Paramount Theatre which had originally opened as the Portland Public Theatre. It was designed by the Chicago-based architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp in Italian Rococo Revival style in 1928. It was renamed the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in 1984 and redesigned by ELS Architects.



The Heathman Hotel’s public spaces were remodeled by Portland architect Carter Case and interior designer Andrew Delfino including the eucalyptus-paneled Tea Court. A 100-year-old crystal chandelier from the U.S. Embassy in Czechoslovakia was installed in the Tea Court.



On April 17, 2019, Conde Nast’s Traveler featured the Heathman Hotel as the hotel of the week:



“Built in 1927, this much-loved Portland landmark, elevated to international stardom by its cameo in the steamy 2011 bestseller 50 Shades of Grey, got a fashionable facelift earlier this year, and those used to its old-money library will either love or hate the 10-story historic hotel’s bright and stylish refresh. What hasn’t changed are the opulently costumed doormen, prime downtown location (next door to the popular Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall), and robust Russian-themed afternoon tea in the luxe downstairs tea court. After a day of shopping, museum-hopping, or hiking in nearby Washington Park, pluck a good book off the lobby library shelf, secure a spot on the blue velvet sofa by the fireplace, and order a dozen oysters and a bottle of Sancerre from James Beard Award—winning chef Vitaly Paley’s onsite restaurant, Headwaters.”



Sounds lovely. Who is staying here?



Weekend wanderers, wedding parties, honeymooners, and 50 Shades of Grey superfans.



What about the rooms?



The 151 guest rooms are beautifully redone in white, gray and sea blues, with bright white wooden wall panels at the head of each bed, elegant bar carts, plump cozy chaises, pretty blue-and-white patterned throws, and locally produced Water Avenue Coffee and Steven Smith teas. If guests want space to spread out, book a Corner King Room; it’s nearly 500 square feet, with a leather lounger in the sitting area and plenty of natural light.



Any stand-out features or services?



The all-local honor bar sports wee bottles of Burnside Bourbon, fig vinegar sourced from Red Ridge Farms in the Willamette Valley, and Sourdough and Olive Oil bars by Portland chef turned chocolatier David Briggs of Xocolatl de Davíd. Feel like a pint of Salt & Straw’s Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons in bed while you catch up on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? Whether it’s 9 p.m. or 9a.m., room service will deliver it with a spoon—and a smile.



What’s the deal with food and drink?



Upon check-in, choose a pint of Oregon craft beer or glass of wine, and mark the calendar for 5 p.m. when the hotel hosts a complimentary spirits hour featuring a craft cocktail of the day. Headwaters, James Beard Award—winning chef Vitaly Paley’s seafood restaurant, serves three solid meals a day, but you’re in the center of one of the most exciting food cities in the country, so get out and about.



Any thoughts about the hotel’s facilities?



You’ll be eating well and often during any Portland stay, so best take advantage of the hotel’s small but mighty gym, with its mini rock-climbing wall, punching bag, and live-streaming Peloton bikes. If leaving the room is not part of the workout, order a Well-Fit Kit, equipped with a Manduka yoga mat, barrel bands, weights and core ball, and workout-video loaded iPad. The hotel also has discounted and complimentary passes to local fitness studios; just stop by the front desk.

What’s the bottom line?



The Heathman is a fresh-faced piece of authentic Portland history with the perfect downtown location, lots of local amenities, and the library of any person’s dreams.



The Heathman Hotel has been a member of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation since 1991. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.



*****



About Stanley Turkel, CMHS



Stanley Turkel is a recognized consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases and providing asset management an and hotel franchising consultation. Prior to forming his hotel consulting firm, Turkel was the Product Line Manager for worldwide Hotel/Motel Operations at the International Telephone & Telegraph Co. overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America. Before joining IT&T, he was the Resident Manager of the Americana Hotel (1842 Rooms), General Manager of the Drake Hotel (680 Rooms) and General Manager of the Summit Hotel (762 Rooms), all in New York City. He serves as a Friend of the Tisch Center and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. He served for eleven years as Chairman of the Board of the Trustees of the City Club of New York and is now the Honorary Chairman.




Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, Blue MauMau, Hotel News Resource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by the New York Times. Executive Vice President of Historic Hotels of America, Lawrence Horwitz, has even praised one book, Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry:



  • “If you have ever been in a hotel, as a guest, attended a conference, enjoyed a romantic dinner, celebrated a special occasion, or worked as a hotelier in the front or back of the house, Great American Hoteliers, Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry is a must read book. This book is recommended for any business person, entrepreneur, student, or aspiring hotelier. This book is an excellent history book with insights into seventeen of the great innovators and visionaries of the hotel industry and their inspirational stories.”


Turkel was designated as the “2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America,” the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.



Works published by Stanley Turkel include:



Most of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse—(except Heroes of the American Reconstruction, which can be ordered from McFarland)—by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com, or by clicking on the book’s title.



Contact: Stanley Turkel

stanturkel@aol.com/917-628-8549

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