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(Back to Oregon Haunted Index)

The Benson Hotel –
HauntedHouses.com

ADDRESS:

209 Southwest Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97205

(503) 228-2000 * Benson Hotel web site

Location:

The Benson Hotel can be found in the heart of the downtown district, near the corner of W. Burnside and Southwest Broadway.

Description:

The Benson Hotel is a 12 storied, 1913 historical Portland landmark that has all of its original decor, including Italian marble floor, rich walnut paneling; rare Circassian walnut from the imperial forests of Russia, Austrian crystal chandeliers, the classical coffered ceiling, and the cast-iron railing along the sweeping Italian marble staircase. The Benson Hotel has long been the hotel of choice for celebrities of all kinds, leaders in business and industry, and politicians.

They describe their 287 European style rooms in this way:" Each tranquil space offers an abundance of natural light, windows that open, and a number of luxuries, such as organic bamboo robes and slippers, an umbrella for drizzly days and luxurious bedding."

A variety of accommodations are offered to meet the needs of their guests: Studio or Classic Queen Rooms, 400 Sq. ft Junior Benson Suites, 450 Benson Executive Junior Suites, seven 500-600 sq. ft. penthouse-level suites, a 850 Sq. Ft. expansive Grand Suite, and the glorious 850 sq ft. Presidential Suite, that has been used by every president since Taft, they say.

Prices range from 119.00 to 400.00 a night; very reasonable to upper-crust rates that satisfy everyone's pocket book and style. They have taken the traditional business advice of Simon Benson to draw in a wider range of customers by offering what people desire, with elegance, hospitality and gracious, attentive service to all guests.

HISTORY:

Simon Benson was a first generation American who was born in Norway in 1852, and immigrated to America when he was 16 years old, in 1868. His family settled in Wisconsin, and he started out working as a logger in the pine forests of Wisconsin. He went to Oregon, and worked his way up the ladder, learning various related trades along the way. He not only drove his own bull teams, but filled in as timekeeper and cook.

Eventually, he formed his own logging company, Benson Logging and Lumber Company, which became a huge success, because of his mind for business and innovation, thinking of new ways to harvest and transport lumber out of the forest to his San Diego saw mills. He was not easily discouraged from his plans and dreams. From using machinery, and building railroad tracks to sailing his logs in boats, using the Pacific Ocean, Simon Benson was a mover and a shaker during Portland's early boom years, helping it to grow from being a river trading post into a booming city; during the 1905-1928 progressive growth years. After retiring at the age of 60, this Portland lumber baron turned his energy and effort into public service and philanthropy, with the same vigor and resolve, as he had other dreams he wished to fulfill.

One of them was to offer a better alternative to drinking alcohol. Simon Benson was a teetotaler and was against alcohol. He put his money where his mouth is, and donated 10,000 dollars for the city to put in fancy drinking fountains all over the city.

Another dream of Benson's was to build a spectacular hotel. The Benson Hotel, began as the dream of Simon Benson, who always wanted to build a world, first-class hotel. Simon hired a prominent Portland architect, Albert E. Doyle, to design his hotel that would be the West Coast's answer to the East Coast's European style hotels. It's grand opening was quite a gala affair, on March 5th, in 1913, as an annex to its next door neighbor, The Oregon Hotel, and was called The New Oregon Hotel. It truly was a rival for the best the "East Coast" could offer in upscale, upper-crust hotels.

The New Oregon Hotel's design was inspired by Chicago's famous Blackstone Hotel. The outside of the hotel was beautiful and eye-catching. Doyle chose the French Second Empire style, with beautifully glazed Terra cotta and brick exterior, with an arched lobby windows and a French mansard roof with dormers. The cherry on top was the absolutely glorious 50-foot, glass and steel marquee proudly held the hotel's name at the hotel's main entrance. Inside, only the best materials were used. The rare Russian walnut came at quite a price, nearly making Mr. Benson faint!

Much attention was paid to the amenities and perks, and intricate details, as well as offering the finest hospitality and service. Special, hand-carved, heavy door knobs had OH; (for Oregon Hotel) on them, signifying the grand opening. Guests enjoyed many extras in this hotel, as it had all the latest innovations of the era, including private bathrooms, automatic door switches, circulating ice water, and even electric lights in the closets. Guests enjoyed "a complimentary cup of hot clam nectar", every morning, that eventually became complementary coffee.

The total price tag to build and furnish this 200-room hotel was a whopping $1 million dollars, which was quite a price tag for the day. But, The New Oregon Hotel was everything that Mr. Benson had dreamed of; truly a gem of opulence, grace and style, befitting the wealthy and well-to-do.

When the New Oregon Hotel lost money during its first 16 months of business, Simon Benson became frustrated and took it over, renamed it "The Benson Hotel", and went to work to prove that the hotel could make a profit. Being an astute businessman, he made cuts in expenses and improved the service, turning the once money-losing investment into a huge success, bringing in 100,000 dollars of profit a year. After a 6 year hitch as "hotelier", Simon Benson had other things to accomplish, so he sold The Benson Hotel, in 1919, to William Boyd and Robert Keller; people who he was sure had the ability to continue on making The Benson Hotel a successful business.

William Boyd and Robert Keller did indeed have a successful run with the hotel, and owned it all the way up to 1944. They sold The Benson Hotel to a company with grand ideas to give this old profitable gal a face lift and renovation or two, Western/Westin International, Inc. They began in 1955, by investing 250,000 dollars in transforming the Oak Room into the deluxe, gourmet London Grill, with three private dining rooms, that more than made the money back over the years. Being located just below the grand lobby, all of Portland and visitors alike have enjoyed many a fine meal here.

In 1959, they built on the site of the former next door neighbor, The Oregon Hotel, an additional 175 guest rooms, a 400 person, Mayfair Ballroom, and another restaurant. In 1980, they invested 3 million dollars into a mini-make-over of the Benson Hotel rooms; redecorating and refurbishing in order to upgrade their rooms and suites to offer even a higher quality of luxury. They also removed the wall dividers of their Piccadilly Bar, and opened up the space to create an upscale cocktail lounge. There is ample room for live entertainment on weekend evenings, another draw for business at the hotel.

In 1988, Western/Westin International, Inc, sold The Benson Hotel, as a sure winner with some issues to West Coast Hotels, in 1988. By this time, The Benson Hotel needed a major renovation and restoration, if it was to remain Portland's premiere accommodation hotel. West Coast Hotels stepped up to be plate, and invested 17 million dollars into a grand restoration and renovation project, starting in 1990, that was completed in one year. In 1991, a grand celebration and ribbon cutting affair took place, involving relatives of both Benson and A.E. Doyle.

Currently, The Benson Hotel is owned by Coast Hotels & Resorts, who continue on with the grand traditions of The Benson Hotel. Many people still enjoy their stay here, enjoying the beauty and service of the hotel.

HISTORY of Manifestations:

Sometimes former owners of beloved establishments will visit in their after-life to check up on the state of their treasured structure, as well as spend some time enjoying their memories. If things aren't up to snuff, according to their standards, they may even try to supervise!

( Bullock Hotel * The Olde Pink House * Curtis House Inn * Boca Raton Resort Club * Hotel Alex Johnson * Stanley Hotel )

As this was his dream hotel, Simon Benson may indeed choose to visit and enjoy his memories, while checking out the state of his hotel, that he saved from financial ruin by taking it over, and running it for 6 years.

Perhaps the current Benson Hotel is not on the level that is expected by Mr. Benson:

There are a few unhappy reviews posted on Yelp and Trip Advisor, though many others loved their stay here. While there are always "Crabby Appletons" who can always find things to complain about, some of the complaints posted may have some validity. Yikes! This wouldn't be acceptable to the entity of Mr. Benson, and may be a trigger for his supervision.

Staff report that the entity of Simon Benson isn't too pleased that alcohol is being sold in his hotel, and some people over-imbibe.

People who die unexpectedly while visiting a hotel where they are supposed to be having a restful or good time, linger on there, not quite ready to move on into the spirit world.

( Plains Hotel * Monteleone Hotel * Geiser Grand Hotel * Biltmore Hotel )

At least one person is known to have died in the hotel: Former drummer for Jimmy Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, in 2008.

Spirits often appear to the living at an age that they had the most fun out of life. People who die as adults, sometimes want to be seen as the child they once were, because this is when they were very happy.

( The Historic Bush House Museum * Hotel Bethlehem * Robert E Lee Mansion * Cedar Crest College * Hartford Twain House )

Mitch Mitchell was a child star in England, and he may want to be seen as a child, a very happy time in his life indeed. He was probably a jokester while alive, and likes to startle folks for fun and chuckles in his spirit state!

The other theory is that Simon Benson also appears as a child, but I think that he wouldn't be a face-maker to scare people, because he was a serious businessman, who respects his guests.

Visitors and guests who love their hotel stays while alive, often want to visit their favorite place to stay in their after-life.

( Nonantum Resort * Jekyll Island Club Hotel * Copper Queen Hotel * Roosevelt Hotel )

Manifestations:

12th, 9th and 7th floors all have reported paranormal activity, as well as the grand staircase, dining area and business meeting rooms.

A Male Entity - Identified as Simon Benson

Dressed in a formal suit, he has been seen floating down the main lobby staircase.

Dressed in a dark suit coat, his apparition with no legs has been seen floating all around the common area of the hotel, sometimes glowering at the guests who are feeling a little too good while drinking alcohol, perhaps knocking over a few drinks, though this isn't spelled out by the staff. They just say that he is "spiteful" at times; perhaps with people who have had too much to drink.

Dressed in casual clothes of a lumberjack, he walked into the dining room, appearing as a solid person, fooling an employee who was setting up for a banquet. She watched him walk into the wine storage area, that had been a barber shop in the very early days of the hotel.

His apparition is thought to also hang out in one of the business meeting rooms in the downstairs area, perhaps remembering all the meetings he had with his staff, very pleased that his business ideas had turned the hotel from a money-looser to a very profitable investment.

Unknown Male entity

Dressed like a night porter, appearing in solid form, helped a slightly disabled guest into bed. The guest was surprised when the night porter, suddenly disappeared in the room.

Female Entity - Lady in a white dress

This entity likes to wander the various hallways of the hotel.

Female Entity - Wearing a turquoise dress & red rings

She has been seen in the large gilded mirror that can be found in the lobby of the hotel.

Little Boy Entity - 3 year old, thin with brown hair, see-through in appearance

On the 9th floor, he appeared by the bedside of a female guest. She was the mother of a 3 year old, and immediately felt maternal.

She reached out to pull him toward her, and he felt warm. He suddenly got up in her face and made a silly, scary face. This sequence happened twice. He then sat on the end of the bed, pleased with himself.

paranormal findings

Many personal, vivid experiences of the staff and guests of the Benson Hotel have been reported, though no one has quit over them,
and guests haven't checked out in a fright, or asked for new rooms.

I couldn't find any published data about hard evidence recorded by psychic or scientific paranormal investigations that may have been allowed by the Benson Hotel management.

Psychic Chip Coffey led some paranormal investigations at the Benson Hotel after his psychic reading events program in 2011, held at The Benson Hotel. Nothing was made public. I bet Chip did have some talks though, with the spirits who stay at the Benson Hotel.

still haunted?

A Big Probably so. The Benson Hotel does admit that some of their staff and guests have had friendly experiences with their spirits.

The Benson Hotel has allowed some private investigations, but keep the results under wraps, which is understandable, as they respect the privacy of both their living and spiritual guests. Paranormal Groups have inquired about having investigations there, but were ignored. Offering a plan to bring in money, like a speaker event, having an investigation maybe more possible, if nothing is published; hotel has some control over the results.

Sources include

Haunts of Western Oregon
by Kent Goodman
Pg. 88
Schiffer Publications
2009

Benson Hotel page on Haunted Places.com

Portland Basin page on Ghosts and Critters.com * Coffey Talk with Chip Coffey: Portland, Oregon

"Ghost experiences at the Benson Hotel" on Yelp

Portland page on Neighborhood Notes.com