Portland #StayLikeALocal

I never win anything.

Until recently!

I was shocked (and thrilled) to win the Grand Door Prize drawing at a work-related party for a two-night stay at the beautiful Mark Spencer Hotel in downtown Portland.

I had never stayed the night in a downtown Portland hotel either. Until recently!

Bookending our 2-night stay were two splurges:  the Phantom of the Opera at Keller Auditorium and hour-long Chinese massages.

For our stay-cation I insisted that we leave the car behind, use public transportation or walk, and that we eat at all new (to us) restaurants. We really enjoyed our 2-night stay.

My sore aching feet and ankles were thrilled with our $30 hour massages!

“Stay Like a Local” is the Mark Spencer Hotel’s tagline. Nothing about our room was like what I have as a “local.” No, this poor local stayed in a king-size-bed-50-inch-TV-corner-suite overlooking the Portland Streetcar line and served breakfast each morning and fresh baked cookies each afternoon. Whereas I have always had a bed, bathroom and kitchen, thankfully, never have I lived with all of downtown Portland and The Pearl district outside my front door!

Oh, please, let’s do it again!

The Mark Spencer Hotel breakfast room.

The lovely king corner suite at the Mark Spencer Hotel.

If it had been a cold, rainy weekend we might have never left the room! Grubhub delivers!

The #staylikealocal kitchenette was handy when we brought in treats from Petunia’s Cakes and Pies.

A prettier bath than my local one.

TheMark Spencer Hotel is located at 409 SW 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon.

What Did We Do About Town?

As a local guide, I am continuously showing visitors the same things over and over again, like the International Rose Test Garden, the historical murals on The Sovereign Hotel, and – Portland’s Benson Bubblers. I love learning additional information and wanted to dig a little deeper and see something new. Just walking further down the South Park Blocks towards Portland State University we came to the gorgeously restored home of Simon Benson of Benson Bubbler fame, with one of the iconic fountains standing out front!

Around 1900 Simon Benson built his grand Queen Anne style home at SW 11th and Clay and sold it in 1915. By 1990, it was in such terrible condition that the City condemned the home. Friends of Simon Benson House raised over a million dollars to save it from the wrecker’s ball, move it to the Portland State University donated lot and lovingly restore it. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I grew up in Portland, swam in Benson Lake, climbed to Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls, was familiar with Benson High School and The Benson Hotel, but didn’t realize until I was a local guide that they were all connected to one man: Simon Benson.

Simon Benson was born in Norway, came to the United States, and in 1880 arrived in Portland with a wife and child and very little money. Within 20 years he was wealthy from his vast timber enterprise and began philanthropic efforts including contributing to the construction of Benson Polytechnic (now Benson High), building the New Oregon Hotel (now named The Benson Hotel), donating the city’s bronze water fountains (now called Benson Bubblers), and buying the acreage containing Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls (now called Benson State Park) and donating it to the City as well as constructing the bridge (now called Benson Bridge) at Multnomah Falls.

The PSU Alumni Association offices are housed in the former Simon Benson house. The first floor is open to the public, but we were graciously allowed to go upstairs as well! It was a highlight for me to visit this beautifully restored historic home.

Amazingly, the leaded glass windows are original even after being removed by a vagrant and sold around town. They were all located and returned to their original locations in the house.

Despite the building’s sad condition, this stairway was in good condition.

The Simon Benson House can be found at 1803 SW Park Avenue.

Next we took the bus to Marquam Hill (aka Pill Hill on account of the three hospitals situated on top). Over 24,000 patients, doctors, students and workers travel to Pill Hill daily.

We wanted to explore the pedestrian skybridge which connects OHSU Hospital and the VA Medical Center and is the longest suspended pedestrian skybridge in North America at 660 feet.

Walking it made us wish for either roller skates or a moving sidewalk such as at the airport.

Continuing on our sightseeing, we traveled on the 3300-feet-long Aerial Tram. A little known fact is that it is free to ride the aerial tram down to South Waterfront. Tickets are only required if you originate at South Waterfront.

Finally, we checked out a little known museum, The Portland Police Museum and Historical Society at 1111 SW 2nd Avenue. I especially enjoyed the historic photos of Portland. Admission is free.

Food was an enjoyable part of our stay-cation. See you next time with food photos!

2 responses to “Portland #StayLikeALocal

  1. Oh Merrill – it was so nice to read your meet you in the morning letter…I so miss hearing about all your fun travels! The history on this Benson fellow was so interesting and it sounds like you all had a great mini vacation! SLV Preview Day was Saturday, so it will be a busy week at work! Stay tuned, I have some fun travels coming soon! Woo hoo. Take care…


    • Yay, it’s good to hear from you Donna. I’ll be looking for your travel posts! I miss traveling with you and learning our history together. When are you going to come visit in Portland?


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