June 17, 2015
“If you come, they will build it” has become the mantra in Portland, where a neighbourhood barely registers on the hipster scale before another scruffier, trendier set of streets takes its place. Independent hotels serve as indicator species for an area’s vitality. Check out the industrial Central Eastside where nondescript economy chain accommodations will shortly be joined by 4-star Hotel Eastlund, a 168-room contemporary “moto-lodge” that appears to have leapt straight out of the 1950’s. But Eastlund’s mid-century modern is hardly the only aesthetic across town. From Benson’s French Second Empire threads to the original steel-framed Ace, here’s our bushel of Portland’s best hotels.
Seems like every small hotel these days has a workspace worthy lobby bedecked in nostalgic, if a little worn, accoutrements with a house turntablist spinning into the evening. Not so. Portland’s Ace Hotel captured the Pacific Northwest’s insular desire for no frills, cheap accommodation that has become synonymous with hip millennial culture. The first Ace may feel a bit like a museum piece, but the rooms remain crisp as white starched sheets and cool steel bedframes. Cruiser bikes sit in the lobby and it’s still possible to eavesdrop on a small creative agency prepping in the second floor breakfast room for their big pitch to a hot PDX start-up. Catch up with the crew that evening at the stylish in-house restaurant, Clyde Common or head down to the basement cocktail bar, Pepe le Moko.
The throwback Benson Hotel is modelled in the French Second Empire style, with a distinctive Northwest touch. Timber barons once lodged here, comfortable beside pillars and floor-to-ceiling panelling hewn of old growth Douglas fir trees. Vintage cocktails dominate current drink menus, so why not step into the Palm Court, where Highballs and Manhattans have been mixed for over a century. Interiors are traditional without being stuffy, and thanks to a recent renovation, both the bedrooms and the communal spaces have been fully refreshed with stylish furniture and furnishings.
Hotel stays provide much more than a place to rest your head, and Portland’s best hotels combine equal measures fun and escapism. Staying at Hotel DeLuxe, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Raymond Chandler novel; the “Blue Dahlia” strolling across this regal gold lobby would hardly raise an eyebrow. Over 500 cinematic black and whites cover the hotel walls. The Pop Up Cinema (reservations required) features an intimate screening room showing a range of Hollywood classics, replete with a Driftwood Room signature cocktail to accompany the film. The fantasia seeps into every familiar element here. How many honour bars contain an actual tasting menu of era appropriate cocktails?
The Jupiter Hotel epitomizes the long neglected, suddenly sizzling Central Eastside neighbourhood. A former motor inn, the Jupiter was cool, i.e. rundown, long before rundown was cool. More than any other hotel in PDX, even the Ace, “have you stayed at the Jupiter” tips the lodger’s hipster scale. The remodelled lobby adds an art gallery with “First Friday” openings, and the adjacent Doug Fir Lounge pulses with musical saws most nights of the year. Eighty guest rooms, a party-worthy suite and a smattering of courtyards round out the experience.
The Jupiter can’t contain the entire Central Eastside crowd, so June sees the opening of Hotel Eastlund. Sister property to downtown’s Hotel Modera, Hotel Eastlund offers 168 rooms set in mid-century design, complemented by a thoroughly modern rooftop bar, Altabira City Tavern. Modern modems launch wifi at 500 mb, a speed worth mentioning, while other optics include two 150-ft2 panels featuring Brigitte Bardot and Loui Jover’s “Adventures in Bliss.” One of Portland’s best hotels for skyline views, opt for the Premier Downtown Suite to see Portland at its best.
The Nines is situated on the top five floors of the Meier & Frank Building, a National Landmark. Like all new construction here, LEED standards are a given. During the Nines’ 2009 development, 90% of the 24-million pounds of material was recycled. The hotel also uses 100% renewable energy sources. The Nines also offers one of Portland’s original farm-to-table establishments, Urban Farmer. You won’t find any liveried servers here, but rather a slow food, Oregon-based menu presented within a bustling atrium bar.
Hotel Vintage is the latest Portland property to go in for a facelift. A spiral staircase carries guests to a playroom with billiards, shuffleboard, and other distractions, while the mid-century modern bar serves a bevy of freshly mulled herbs combined with local spirits. The rooms are individually styled, some with carved wooden headboards and deep chocolate wallpaper, others appointed with long lipstick red crushed couches and a flash of purple. As with any Klimpton property, pets aren’t just accepted, they’re welcomed with open arms.
Header image © Ace Hotel
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Written by Crai Bower