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Heard of the Heathman Hotel? Back in the day, Portland had two of them

The buildings act as time capsules to a booming time in Portland history, capturing unique architecture and cultural significance.

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The New Heathman Hotel in 1948 next to the Paramount Theatre (now Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall).

Photo via Portland City Archives

The Roaring Twenties swept into Portland, bringing money and enthusiasm to rise toward economic prosperity and more literally, into the sky. At least 184 buildings were constructed downtown, including 38 hotels, laying the foundation for the city’s modern skyline.

Only 10 of those hotels still stand, and just one retains its original function as lodging — the Heathman Hotel — so let’s take an elevator ride through its history.

To reach the beginning, we actually have to walk across Southwest Salmon Street to the corner of Park Avenue. In 1926, the original Heathman Hotel was built there for approx. $1 million (that’s over $17 million adjusted for inflation).

Business was so good with the upper class (think lumber barons, railroad magnates, politicians, etc.) that hotelier George Heathman decided to launch a second, eponymous venture — the New Heathman Hotel. At the time, it was Portland’s largest construction project to date, employing some 1,200 workers.

It formally opened in 1927 as “Portland’s newest and most modern hotel,” dazzling visitors to the entertainment district with its flashing marquee, stone Jacobean Revival facade, and ornate interior. KOIN radio station moved into to the mezzanine’s wood-paneled studios, where it broadcast until 1955.

An ornate dark wood paneled library features colorful books and art and a crystal chandelier.

The library’s nearly 140-years-old crystal chandelier once hung in the US Embassy in Czechoslovakia.

Photo via Heathman Hotel

The 1980s brought big changes for the two hotels. Officials condemned the Park Heathman (the original one) for code violations. Eventually it was converted into Section 8 subsidized housing and renamed Park Tower Apartments.

Dropping the “new,” the surviving Heathman Hotel underwent a restoration in 1984, moving its entrance from Salmon Street to Broadway. Another extensive renovation was completed in 2018, adding contemporary touches throughout while honoring its history.

Today, guests will find the accommodations to be pet friendly (give Zelda a pat on the way in), perhaps haunted, and romantic — just ask the protagonists (and fans) of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”