A recognizable Old Town landmark is getting reformatted into a boutique hotel soon. Later this year the Mariner's Home on NW 3rd and Couch will become the Society Hotel, a boutique guest house that the owners describe as being similar in style to a hostel. The pink and teal building has a colorful history. In the 1880s the building was a refuge for sailors and acted as an alternative to the disreputable "crimphouses" that once populated Portland. It eventually became a cornerstone of Portland's Japantown until internment, and the last regular resident died in the 1970s. The building has been more or less vacant ever since.

More weird Portland history and lots of photos after the jump.


One of the oddest things about the building is that it used to be a story shorter. That's not especially weird. Buildings get additions put on them all the time. But, in the late 1800s developers didn't do the sensible thing and just build a new story on top. Nope, they uprooted the building, lifted it up a story, and inserted a new layer of storefronts between the old first floor and the second. In the picture above, notice the difference between the teal and pink parts of the building. The teal bits are the original three stories of the structure, and the pink part was an addition shimmed in later on. The later, lower story had a cast iron facade, much like other structures in the area such as the Merchant Hotel, now the home of Old Town Pizza. (If you wanted to, you could festoon the exterior of these buildings with magnets. Seriously, you could cover Old Town Pizza with magnetic poetry if you really wanted to. Someone should do that, as it would be mildly amusing.)

The entryway of the Mariner's Home/Society hotel prominently features the beams that were brought in when, for some damn reason, the property owners decided to lift up a whole damn building and put new stuff underneath it.


The owners of the building introduced me and a few other press folks and travel industry types to the space and elaborated on what types of hotel rooms the new business is going to have. Apparently they'll have a large room of $40 a night bunk beds. That detail immediately reminded me of those capsule hotels that they have in Japan where you can sleep in a box. I have slept in a capsule hotel exactly one time, and I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that sleeping in a boxy space with a bunch of strange humans is not appealing, but, hey, maybe that will appeal to a certain kind of backpack-sporting young traveler who doesn't mind hearing the other guests' snores.

The upper floors were given over to more conventional rooms, and the hotel still bears a lot of the marks and character from its history. For example, the staircase is straight out of the 1800s, and they're keeping that.


And a few of the rooms still bore the scrawls and graffiti of the original inhabitants. For instance, here's someone's budget, scrawled in pencil on a hotel wall.


Probably my favorite area was a part of the building that wasn't technically owned by the Society Hotel, but only accessible from its upper floors. This room of debris and dust is technically part of the neighboring building, but the only way in is from the Society. The owners have no real plans to fix it up, so presumably the small ruin is just going to stay as is.


The owners are shooting for an October opening.