Society Hotel Bingen co-owner Matt Siegel is frantically trying to finish converting two giant fir tree stumps into a pair of rustic side tables. “These massive rounds are from a tree that was killed by the Eagle Creek fire—they still have the char marks,” he says, noting that the tables are destined for the lively lobby of his new hotel, located right across the Columbia from bustling Hood River. “They’re probably 100 years old and they’re part of a Gorge story. We’re trying really hard to bring that [to Society Bingen]. A sense of place.”
For nearly a year, Siegel and the rest of the team behind Portland’s boutique Society Hotel has been at work transforming Bingen, Washington’s 80-year-old schoolhouse-turned-hostel into a chic, outdoorsy basecamp for adventure lovers. The aim? To showcase the merits of the sleepier (and sunnier) side of the Columbia River Gorge.
Now, the Portland crew is set to debut its Society Hotel Bingen on May 24. Expect cabins with hammocks swinging out front, bunk beds, and a mod hot tub and spa complex with a Columbia River views—essentially a chill summer camp for adults—with plenty of Portland-style amenities.
The hotel takes a cue from the original, thrifty-chic Society in Portland’s Old Town, with a pair of communal rooms featuring eight stacks of triple bunks (around $45 a bed/night) and small, private rooms (around $129/night) snugged into the main schoolhouse. But Bingen also boasts something the Portland location does not: a village of some 20 one- and two-bed cabins (around $159-299/night), each sporting their own covered outdoor area, picnic table, and hammock. (“That was my 10-year old’s idea,” says Siegel with a laugh. “Hammocks for every cabin.”)
Those tidy cabins ring an ambitious spa complex that includes a warm pool, cold plunge, and sauna with room for 20, and a spa café pressing fresh juices under a 25-foot skylight. Plus, an outdoor hot tub with room for 15. Nearby, a 30-foot diameter, underground meditation dome dubbed “The Sanctuary” is also nearing completion, ultimately destined for yoga, meditation, and “infinite music” events.
The team has also converted the school’s original gym into an event space and hotel rumpus room, complete with a half-court basketball court with a black walnut backboard (they kept as many original elements as possible, from the bleachers to the scuffs of the gym floor). The gym complex also contains conference rooms with views of the Gorge.
According to Society food and beverage director Paul Wojciechowski, Bingen’s lobby will serve as the property's hub, with a full bar and healthy café open to the public, featuring rotating local coffee roasters and a new ranging from grain bowls to biscuits and gravy. (Ingredients sourced, in large part, from the Gorge’s glut of farms and food outfits.) When pressed for specifics, Wojciechowski teases cult sauerkraut and kombucha from Bingen’s own Blue Bus Cultured Foods, breads and goodies from beloved White Salmon Bakery, just five minutes west on Highway 141, and pours from Syncline and Cor, two wineries tucked in the hills just east of Bingen.
While the new hotel ought to appeal to a cross-section of travelers, Siegel is also hoping Society Bingen will attract corporate and health and wellness retreats year-round. “Fall and winter, when it’s dreary in Portland, we welcome people to come here and warm up and soak.”