Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown

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Discover Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown, which was the Multnomah Hotel and named for the tribe of the Chinook indigenous people.

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Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2016, dates back to 1912.

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Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown has been a cherished historical landmark in Oregon for over a century. Dating back to 1912, the hotel was originally the creation of businessperson Phillip Gevurtz. Gevurtz specifically envisioned developing a grand hotel that would cater to the many new travelers arriving in Portland after its Lewis and Clark Expedition centennial in 1905. To turn his dream into a reality, he hired the architectural firm Gibson and Cahill to spearhead the building’s design. It managed to design a brilliant multistory structure that displayed beautiful elements of Neoclassical and Renaissance Revival architecture. The entire project was a mammoth undertaking, too, with Gevurtz spending lavishly to complete it. Indeed, he purchased only the best building materials available at the time, including exotic wood, elaborate golf-leaf wall decorations, and over 70,000 square feet of carpeting. The 700 guestrooms that his architectural team created were among the best in the Pacific northwest, as they featured a diverse assortment of luxurious amenities that were rarely found in most other hotels. Among the most cutting-edge conveniences that Gevurtz installed in every accommodation was an innovative heating system, freshly produced ice water, and filtered air. He made the hotel’s public areas incredibly ornate, even crafting a unique tearoom that had the city’s first smoking space for women. When the building finally opened as the “Multnomah Hotel” after several months of continuous construction, it was hailed as an engineering masterpiece. (Gevurtz specifically chose the hotel’s name as an homage to a tribe of Chinook Native Americans that once inhabited the center of the city.) In fact, the structure was the largest hotel in all of Portland upon its debut!

To inaugurate its completion, Gevurtz hosted a spectacular gala that was attended by some 8,000 people! Impressed, the guests soon spread word of the hotel’s unrivaled luxury and grand elegance. As such, the Multnomah Hotel became one of the most prevalent social gathering spots in all of Portland within just a matter of months. But this newfound popularity gradually allured people from all over the United States, including some of the nation’s most illustrious individuals. The first was Silas Christopher, who flew a Curtis Pusher biplane off the hotel’s roof before a crowd of 50,000 onlookers. His arrival was followed up by numerous notable guests that included politicians, celebrities, and even members of royalty. For instance, Queen Maria of Romania visited the hotel when local entrepreneur Sam Hill invited her to appear at his new museum. Elvis Presley reserved a suite at the Multnomah Hotel and ended up attracting a massive crowd of excited fans. (Some of his female admirers even tried to scale a flower trellis located right below his room on the mezzanine level.) And President John F. Kennedy gave an impromptu speech from one of the building’s balconies while campaigning for the White House! Unfortunately, the Multnomah Hotel’s legacy came to a temporary end when it was converted into government office space for the Grand Service Administration in 1965. But 30 years later, new owners purchased the erstwhile Multnomah Hotel and carefully renovated it back into an upscale holiday destination. After two years of extensive work, the building reopened as the “Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown” to great acclaim. Now also a member of Historic Hotels of America, this spectacular historic hotel is once again one of Portland’s most esteemed vacation retreats.

  • About the Location +

    The area that now constitutes Portland today was first inhabited by scores of Native Americans, specifically tribes of the Chinhook known as the “Multnomah” and the “Clackamas.” They congregated around the area’s two main water sources—the Columbia and Willamette rivers—and relied upon the local natural resources for sustenance. But European and American pioneers began to settle the land at the beginning of the 19th century, namely to setup fur trading outposts along the coast. Indeed, one of the first individuals to establish such an operation was the British-owned Hudson Bay Company, which opened a camp opposite the site of contemporary Portland. The fur trade proved to be incredibly profitable, incentivizing countless more people to travel west to the region along the now-famous Oregon Trail. Some settlers and their families eventually arrived in the vicinity, choosing to create a small village at the confluence of each river in 1843. The settlers subsequently cleared out the densely forested terrain, which produced a unique landscape of freshly chopped trees. As such, the earliest names for the community were “Stumptown” and “The Clearing.” Nevertheless, two of the city’s more prominent members—Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove—decided to change its name, although they differed considerably on an alternative. Flipping a coin, the men ultimately chose “Portland” after Pettygrove’s hometown in Maine. (The other candidate was Lovejoy’s previous residence of Boston, Massachusetts.) Known to history as the “Portland Penny,” the coin Pettygrove and Lovejoy used is now preserved as a celebrated artifact within the collection of the Oregon Historical Society.

    Despite its initial remoteness, Portland quickly grew into an important seaport along America’s Pacific coastline. Soon enough, steamboats and other naval vessels were spotted frequently making trips into the town’s wharves. This activity only further spurred Portland’s economic growth, which helped develop robust agricultural and industrial sectors in the local economy. Hundreds of new jobs were created that attracted many more individuals from across the world. Indeed, well more than 17,000 people had moved to Portland by the height of the Gilded Age, thus transforming it into a full-blown city. Not only had many more Americans and Europeans relocated to Portland, but countless Chinese and Japanese immigrants had come to call the community home, too. The city’s diverse population helped maintain the local maritime trade, working in the numerous shipyards that resided along the riverbanks. Indeed, it was within this environment that Portland’s “Shanghai Tunnels” debuted, which local businesspeople constructed as a way to transport goods down to the docks. (Oral tradition still asserts that the subterranean system was used for illicit uses, spawning a series of legends that have endured to this day.) But many saloons, bordellos, and gambling dens also appeared that serviced the many visiting sailors who arrived in Portland regularly. Their presence subsequently gave the city the dualistic identity as both a bustling port and a rugged community.

    Portland eventually shed the more infamous side to its reputation during the 20th century, when a wave of commercial construction swept across the city shortly before the outbreak of World War I. The community continued to preserve its status as an important port city as well, particularly in regard to shipbuilding. This component to the economy expanded significantly during World War II, with one shipyard—Vanport—producing all kinds of military vessels throughout the conflict. Vanport alone helped give workers a new source of income in the wake of the Great Depression, especially among the city’s population of African Americans. But in the 1980s, the prosperity that had long defined Portland slowed due to depressed demand for such locally produced products like timber. Thankfully, the city rebounded significantly a decade later after technology companies began to move their offices downtown. Their presence ushered in a new era of good fortune that has lasted well into the present. Portland today continues to be one of the most influential cities in the western United States, attracting scores of visitors every year. Cultural heritage travelers are some of the most enthusiastic people who come to experience the city and its fascinating history. Among the cultural institutions and landmarks that had specifically captured their attention are the Portland Art Museum, Washington Park, and the Oregon Historical Society. Come experience this amazing historic city first-hand!


  • About the Architecture +

    The Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown displays a brilliant blend of Classic Revival-style architecture. Also known as “Neoclassical,” Classic Revival design aesthetics are among the most common architectural forms seen throughout the United States. This wonderful architectural style first became popularized at the World’s Columbian Exposition, which was held in Chicago in 1893. Many of the exhibits displayed structures exhibits architectural motifs from ancient societies like Rome and Greece. As with the equally popular Colonial Revival style of the same period, Classical Revival architect found an audience for its more formal nature. It specifically relied on stylistic design elements that incorporated such structural components like the symmetrical placement of doors and windows, as well as a front porch crowned with a classical pediment. Architects would also install a rounded front portico that possessed a balustraded flat roof. Pilasters and other sculptured ornamentations proliferated throughout the façade of the building, as well. Perhaps the most striking feature of buildings designed with Classical Revival-style architecture were massive columns that displayed some combination of Corinthian, Doric, or Ionic capitals. With its Greco-Roman temple-like form, Classical Revival-style architecture was considered most appropriate for municipal buildings like courthouses, libraries, and schools. Yet, the form found its way into more commercial uses over time, such as banks, department stores, and of course, hotels. The celebrated architectural firm McKim, Meade and White produced some of the most noteworthy buildings that utilized Classical Revival architecture, with most of their work appearing during the early 20th century. Examples of their portfolio can be found in many of American’s major cities, such as Philadelphia and New York City.

    Interestingly, the hotel also showcases elements of Renaissance Revival-style design aesthetics throughout its façade. In fact, the presence of this form helped differentiate the neoclassical motifs that the firm Gibson and Cahill implemented. Renaissance Revival itself architecture—sometimes referred to as "Neo-Renaissance”—is a group of architecture revival styles that date back to the 19th century. Neither Grecian nor Gothic in their appearance, Renaissance Revival-style architecture drew inspiration from a wide range of structural motifs found throughout Early Modern Western Europe. Architects in France and Italy were the first to embrace the artistic movement, who saw the architectural forms of the European Renaissance as an opportunity to reinvigorate a sense of civic pride throughout their communities. As such, those intellectuals incorporated the colonnades and low-pitched roofs of Renaissance-era buildings with the specific characteristics of Mannerist and Baroque-themed architecture. Perhaps the greatest structural component to a Renaissance Revival-style building involved the installation of a grand staircase in a vein similar to those located at both the Château de Blois and the Château de Chambord in France’s Loire Valley. This particular feature served as a central focal point for the design, often directing guests to a magnificent lobby or exterior courtyard. But the nebulous nature of Renaissance Revival architecture meant that its appearance varied widely across Europe. As such, historians today sometimes find it difficult to provide a specific definition for the architectural movement. Regardless, Renaissance Revival architecture today remains one of the world’s most enduring, appearing in countless places across the globe.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Bing Crosby, singer and actor known for his roles in Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s. 

    Rudolph Valentino, actor known for such films like The Sheik, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Blood and Sand. Jack Benny, famous comedian known for his trademark comic timing.

    Jimmy Stewart, actor known for his roles in such films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

    Elvis Presley, singer, musician and actor, affectionately known as the “King of Rock.” 

    Amelia Earhart, pioneering aviator who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. 

    Charles Lindbergh, legendary aviator who completed the first solo transatlantic flight in world history.

    Queen Marie of Romania (1914 – 1927)

    Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901 – 1909)

    William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States (1909 – 1913) and 10th Chief Justice of the United States (1921 – 1930)

    Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States (1913 – 1921)

    Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States (1921 – 1923)

    Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States (1923 – 1929)

    Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States (1929 – 1933)

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1933 – 1945)

    Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (1945 – 1953)

    Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States (1953 – 1961), and Supreme Allied Commander Europe during World War II.

    John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States (1961 – 1963)

    Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States (1963 – 1969)

    Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States (1969 – 1974)


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