The original Heathman Hotel was built in 1926, located at the intersection of Park and Salmon streets in downtown Portland by contractor and hotelier, George Heathman. By the following year, Portland had become a burgeoning city with a demand for higher-end accommodations to meet the social station and needs of the affluent residents and travelers passing through. Given the success of the first hotel, Heathman started construction on a sister property. In 1927, The New Heathman Hotel opened its doors, just a block from the original. It was a ten-story concrete and brick structure, with decorative details in the Jacobean Revival style. The second-story and upper-floor windows were trimmed in stone, and the lobby’s dark wood paneling extended to the mezzanine level.
When the new Heathman opened, it was greeted with much fanfare, and The Oregon Journal described it as “Portland’s newest and most modern hotel.” They wrote: “Its planning, construction and general appointments are as modern as ingenuity and talent could possibly make it.”
Unabashedly classic in spirit, the Heathman has always been a storied actor in the city’s artistic conversation, due to its location in the heart of Portland’s cultural district. In the hotel’s early years, from the 1930s to the 1950s, the mezzanine was home to the studios of Portland radio station, KOIN. Within those studios, described as the finest in the country, the station boasted a roster of musicians and entertainers larger than all other local stations combined, and, from their transmitters high above the nearby West Hills, they beamed their signal as far as California, Nevada and Idaho.
In 1984, the Heathman underwent a major renovation, during which the original exterior and eucalyptus-paneled Tea Court Lounge were fully restored to their original glory. Also during this renovation, the hotel’s entrance was moved from Salmon Street to Broadway, enhancing its visibility, and the hotel dropped the “new” designation with guests and locals, henceforth referring to it simply as the Heathman Hotel.
A second major renovation of all guestrooms and public spaces was completed in September 2018. Lighter, brighter and more contemporary, the new design is rooted in the building’s unique history, and pays homage to the hotel’s role as muse to generations of guests and locals alike.