Benson Hotel History | Downtown Portland Hotel | Simon Benson

Where Legends Stay

The venerable Benson Hotel, currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a Portland landmark, and a timeless tribute to its founder and designer Simon Benson. Carefully nurtured for over a century, the stately hotel retains the opulence for which it is world-famous. A.E. Doyle’s architectural talent – reflective of a golden era – combined with Simon Benson’s tenacity, business savvy and impeccable taste; live on as the foundation of The Benson Hotel, an American classic.

The Doyle approach for the 12-story Benson was in the French Second Empire style – glazed terra cotta and brick exterior, arched lobby windows and a French mansard roof with dormers. Inside the hotel, Simon Benson spared no expense in his pursuit of elegance. The ornate lobby features Italian marble floors, a classical coffered ceiling and Austrian crystal chandeliers. The walls and pillars are finished in rare, now extinct, Circassian walnut imported from the forests of Imperial Russia and remains a focal point of The Benson’s grand lobby.

Portland’s historic landmark hotel, The Benson, opened in 1913 as an annex to the adjacent Oregon Hotel. The 1959 addition of 175 guest rooms built on the adjacent site of the former hotel, doubled The Benson’s room capacity, and allowed for the expansion of meeting space. The Mayfair Ballroom, which seats 400 people, makes The Benson a premier destination for leisure, business travelers and convention guests alike.

Since opening its doors over a century ago, The Benson has been around to see the constant evolution and growth of its home, the city of Portland. With the nature of such a landmark hotel and its location right in the heart of Portland, the idea of creating an exhibit to showcase local history, art, and to be a guide through all the city’s fascinations was incontestable. The Historic Stairwell was created in 2019 as a unique guest experience to educate, delight and inspire guests and visitors alike.

Your Invitation to Explore

The Historic Stairwell in The Benson is a twelve-story original marble stairwell that features over 160 photos and stories of Portland and its many historic landmark buildings, including the venerable Benson Hotel and its transformation over 100 years.

In addition to building Portland’s Finest Hotel, Simon Benson, successful lumber baron, businessman, and philanthropist spent a decade of public service directed to the State of Oregon and the City of Portland, and his many contributions are highlighted in the stairwell. Film stars, musicians, athletes, Presidents, and other luminaries have all marveled at the timeless beauty of Portland’s historic hotel. See rare photos and read stories about their visits to The Benson in this unique exhibit.

The Historic Stairwell features over 50 famous landmarks and historic buildings throughout Portland, with photos dating back to 1847. It showcases the story about how Portland got its name (and other recognizable nicknames), and many fun facts about Portland, from its cultural offerings in museums, music, film and the arts, to its food scene that has become part of the city’s fabric.

A special acknowledgment to the following individuals for their involvement and dedication to The Benson Historic Stairwell:

    • Jill Hodge, Custom Frame Design
    • David Stevens, Stevens Integrated Solutions
    • Thomas Robinson, Local Historian
    • Alex Blendl, Local Historian
    • Caroline Hart, Freelance Writer & Artist
    • Rachael Wallace, Local Photographer
    • Oregon Historical Society

We welcome you to visit the Historic Stairwell, and to learn more about the storied history of Portland’s landmark hotel, the city of Portland, and its many iconic treasures!

Interactive Historical MapHistoric Stairwell Brochure
2022 Travelers Choice Award

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