The Making of The Society Hotel, Portland, Oregon

The Making of The Society Hotel, Portland, Oregon


So, the project I’m working on is called The
Society Hotel and it’s called the Society Hotel because in part, it was named after
the group that built the building which is the Seaman’s Friendship Society.
They built this building as kind of a safe-haven for sailors. My friend, Matt, came up with
the idea of doing a low-cost boutique hotel somewhere downtown and we started looking around
and found this gorgeous building and just fell in love with the architecture and as we
learned about the history, it just got better and better–especially as we saw the rooftop
and the way the light works in the space. So, we’re really excited to restore it. I think the most exciting thing about this
project is the building itself; the history. It really feels intact. You look around and
there are columns that have been hidden in walls since 1890. This is one of the oldest-standing buildings
in Portland and when we came across it, it had been sitting vacant since about World
War II. So, we were just blown away when we walked through it at all of the
relics and things that were just sitting around from the early 1900’s–some things actually
from the 1800’s. And the fact that it was originally built as a boarding house or a
lodge for sailors in 1881 and it was still configured in the exact same way; it was just
sort of begging to become a hotel again. And the history of the building I think is
really what is driving this whole remodel. It would certainly be easier to tear a building
of this age down and build something new. But it’s really the character that is the
most impressive part. It’s a one-of-a-kind place, doesn’t exist
anywhere else in the world. There’s no chain behind us, there’s no deep-pocket development
group or corporate entity behind us–It’s a bootstrap, homegrown, unique operation and we think that, when people discover us, they’re gonna be really pleasantly surprised at what
we are creating here. We just knew that if we could clean it up
and slightly reconfigure it, but basically, work with the layout that was already here,
that it was going to set up ideally for this concept that we had of dormitory style rooms. The business model itself is unique in that
it is a boutique hotel, the upper floors all being private rooms but there will also be
a hostel element, which is the bunk room on the ground floor, which will be 24 bunk beds
(corrected) in a single room. So it will be kind of a unique experience
there, but we liken it to the berth of a ship, where there is a place for everything and
curtains for privacy and little nods to make people stay a lot more comfortable than a
typical hostel. It has a cafe and a common space where people can gather both in the
cafe/lounge area and also up on the roof, which has commanding views of the city and
the river and the Chinese gardens. It’s like the whole city is at your feet. We started many, many months ago with the
deconstruction and the demolition of all the necessary items to allow us to do the seismic
work, which has really been the bulk of our work up to this point. The biggest challenge with this type of construction
is the seismic upgrade. We had to essentially, underpin–we had to shore support the whole
center part of the building and let all the original columns dangle in the air, suspended
from above, while we dug out underneath them, put in new foundations. Just now, in the last two weeks, we’ve begun
to actually build from the ground up with our framing, putting our floors back in, getting
insulation in–and next week, we are going to begin building our walls for the ground
floor and we will follow the seismic work all the way up until we get to the roof. Hopefully,
top out then and we’ll be all built by the summer (2015). We really care about Portland, we really care
about the culture that we’ve all come to love in this city–and participate in creating.
We want to share that with visitors. While we want to share what is unique about Portland,
we also want to help with the revitalization process of this neighborhood. We’re hoping that this will be the epicenter
of change for the neighborhood. There are a lot of changes that are occurring around
the perimeter, but here we are entrenched right in the center of Old Town and in the
center of Chinatown and we feel like we have the opportunity to really change from the
inside out. And if we establish ourselves as a successful business here, then change
will follow in the rest of the streets surrounding us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *