100 Years of Photos from the Benson Hotel
Portland's emblematic Benson Hotel will mark its 100th birthday with a public celebration March 4 from 12 to 5 p.m. The public is invited to drop by for historical tours, a collection of memorabilia curated by the Oregon Historical Society, and jazz tunes by Jean Ronne.
Erected in the boom years between the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition and the 1929 stock market crash, the A.E. Doyle-designed Benson opened its doors March 5, 1913, as one of the city's most opulent lodging options. Cicassian walnut—now extinct—from Russia decorated (and still does) the lobby walls, Austrian crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling near the Italian marble staircase, and outside the main entrance stood a grand 50-foot glass-and-steel marquee (it was later replaced after collapsing under the weight of heavy snow in 1937). Total price tag: $1 million, or roughly $23 million today.
But the lovely New Oregon Hotel, as it was originally named, failed to make money initially. In fact, it lost money for 16 months, until the lumber baron who commissioned the building, Simon Benson, stepped in, renamed the hotel, and soon had the lavish property turning a $100,000 annual profit.
Today, the Benson—which has been sold several times since 1919 and is now owned by Coast Hotels & Resorts—boasts 287 rooms and an impressive roster of past guests, from Morgan Freeman to Mariah Carey, and even then presidential-hopeful Barack Obama during a 2008 campaign stop in Portland.
Can't make it to the birthday celebration? Get a taste of the iconic property's storied past in our slide show.