- ON THE ROOF: The view from the roof of the Society Hotel, now accessible for future hotel guests via a new staircase and elevator.
Vacant since the 70s, Old Town/Chinatown's Society Hotel hasn't been used for anything in recent memory except a large-scale art installation. Now, it's being rebuilt, and its new co-owners have plans to reopen in late summer or early fall. That's a huge undertaking—and an ambitious timeline—made more complicated by the fact that the only renovation the hotel's received 114 years was the installation of electricity. At a tour of the in-progress space today, one of its new co-owners, Matt Siegel, said they'd found the hotel essentially "untouched" when they began renovations.
Before I get into that, though, here's some of the space's storied/checkered history, as reported by Joe Streckert back in December before Rose Bond's Illumination project:
Later on it became a fixture of Portland's Japantown and, after the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942, the new Chinatown. Eventually, the structure became something of a flophouse. The last tenant died in the '70s, and it's been more or less empty since. Bond reports finding a dramatic ruin when she first explored the building in 2002. "Mr. Wu's dish rack and stack of National Geographics were still there," Bond says, referring to the last tenant. "There was no electricity and no heat."
The hotel certainly looks untouched—the exterior's painted a faded seafoam green and salmon, and inside, it's drafty and full of activity while a construction crew tears it apart and puts it back together. Turns out the dishrack and National Geographics were just a few of the artifacts left behind. Siegel and his fellow owners reported finding former occupants' signatures carved into walls and newspapers left on tables—some from the '30s and '40s. If you're hoping for ghosts though (like me, I was hoping for ghosts), Siegel and Co. report "no vibes."
There are totally bunk beds though!
One of the new additions to the hotel is a ground-floor bunk room, with a shared bathroom and common area, and 24 bunk beds set up like the sleeping racks you'd see on a ship—sort of. It's definitely a nod to the building's past as a refuge for sailors. These bunks will rent for $35-40 a night—they're the less pricy option, with upstairs standard rooms and suites from $75-135 a night.
- THIS DOOR THOUGH: One of the hotel's original doors.
Given how un-renovated the space originally was, Siegel's had to have seismic reinforcements installed, and they're also installing new windows to keep out the cold and the noise from the neighborhood outside. The biggest draw will probably be the hotel's roof, accessible via a new set of stairs, with views of downtown, and, soon, solar panels.
- CONSTRUCTING STUFF: A construction worker in one of the Society Hotel's more preserved hallways.
Siegel also explained that the renovation aims to preserve as much of the hotel's history as possible, and that comes down to repurposing materials whenever possible. The wood from an upstairs ceiling, for example, will be reused to make the lobby floor. The new hotel will also be LEED-certified, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The downside to being so historic? There's one exterior wall that the renovation crew isn't allowed to cut windows into. It's being turned into a mural.