Clio Logo
The Benson Hotel, built in Portland by lumberman Simon Benson in 1913, who capitalized on the California population and building boom by supplying timber to the state. The hotel was constructed as an annex to the adjacent Oregon Hotel (since demolished) to the south and originally called the New Oregon Hotel. Conceived as a high-end hotel in downtown Portland with an opulent interior, The $1 million, 200-room hotel boasted the latest in modern conveniences, including private baths, automatic door switches, electric lights, and telephones in each room. Over the years, the hotel has been home to celebrities, business leaders, politicians, and many U.S. presidents.

  • Hotel circa 1915 (Source: The Oregon Encyclopedia)
  • (Source: The Oregon Encyclopedia)
The Benson Hotel, a twelve-story building, located at 309 SW Broadway in Portland,  Oregon, was first known as the New Hotel Oregon when its doors opened in 1913 as an addition to the adjacent Hotel Oregon of 1905. 

Intended to function as a high-end hotel in downtown Portland, the Benson, architect A.E. Doyle modeled the Benson after Chicago's Blackstone Hotel. Doyle's design incorporated Baroque Revival Style elements in a grand manner, sheathing the twelve-story building in red brick and cream-colored, glazed terra cotta. The expansive mansard roof is covered in copper and green terra cotta and pierced with pediment dormers.

The opulent interior included a lobby that featured rare Circassian walnut woodwork from Russia, Italian marble floors, and Austrian crystal chandeliers. Orange plaster coated the ceiling with designs comprised of acanthus, rosettes, egg-and-dart, and other classical motifs. Moreover, the $1 million, 200-room hotel offered guests the latest in modern conveniences, such as private baths, automatic door switches, electric lights, and telephones in each room. 

 Most impressive are the hotel's lobby, mezzanine, original ballroom, and banquet room, which remain ostensibly unaltered. The rooms are elaborately finished in Circassian mahogany, walnut, marble, and ornamental plaster and are furnished with bronze fixtures. Included 

The hotel symbolizes the correlation between Pacific Northwest lumber and the earth 20th-century California population (and subsequent construction) boom.  Simon Benson (1852-1942), a lumberman and philanthropist, existed as the hotel's backer and served as an early manager of the hotel. Benson, after accumulating a fortune from shipping large quantities of lumber to Southern California, sold his holdings in 1910, invested in real estate, and then built the hotel that bears his name.

Under the supervision of Simon Benson, the hotel quickly set a standard for excellence unrivaled by other hotels in Portland. The hotel has been well maintained over the years, receiving a thorough rehabilitation in 1991. The Benson Hotel has always sought to attract a high-end clientele, which included show business celebrities, business leaders, politicians, and many U.S. presidents.

As much as it is a part of history, it also symbolizes the move by Americans to California and the entire West Coast. To do so, Americans had to reallocate natural resources, such as water and timber, to a place enjoying temperate weather, but lacking those basic societal necessities, which allowed Benson to make his fortune.. 

Tess, John M. "Nomination Form." . Published October 3, 1986. National Register of Historic Places Inventory.

"Use the Forests: President Says They Must Not Be Destroyed." Morning Oregonian(Portland), January 06, 1905. University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR,

Willingham, William F. The Benson Hotel. The Oregon Encyclopedia. Accessed April 18, 2017.