ROSE BOND is telling the story of the Society Hotel in a piece that's equal parts animation, comic strip, and historical filmstrip. The Portland animator and media artist says her work "coexists with architecture," and her current installation is a series of projections that run in a 12-minute loop in the windows of an old building at NW 3rd and Davis.
Built in 1882, the cast-iron-fronted building was originally a boardinghouse for sailors called the Mariner's Home. "It was seen as a place of refuge for seamen," says Jackie Peterson of the Old Town History Project. The hotel's founders intended the boardinghouse to be a place where sailors could stay and not be preyed upon by unscrupulous boardinghouse owners known as crimps. "It was the first social service agency in Portland," she says.
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."
Today, the building is being renovated to become a hotel. Peterson describes the installation as a way to keep Old Town's history alive, saying, "Those who want to see this as somehow merely an extension of the Pearl miss this truly unique aspect of Portland."