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slides: Harlow Building; Saving an Old Portland Hotel for the Future

Friday, January 02, 2015

 

Harlow 82 Block building

I was taking an invigorating stroll the other day, (enjoying the crisp winter weather and bright sunlight) near the old skid-row area in downtown Portland, off Northwest Broadway and Glisan, when I noticed an old building that I presumed was abandoned and scheduled for demolition.

Walking past, I noticed the front entrance was open and there were several workers inside busily repairing structural damage. The Harlow Hotel, as its still referred to, was built in 1882 and fronts Glisan Street and is a lovely example of old-world architectural elegance. And there appears to be a chance the building is making a comeback.

See Slides Below: Harlow 82 Block Undergoes Renovations 

Those travelling to Portland sometimes become frustrated at the lack of medium priced hotel rooms downtown. Often, there are only the higher end hotels like the Hilton or the Benson, the Modero or the Nines above the Macy's department store to choose from. Those hotels can all be fairly expensive. A restored Harlow Hotel may soon be on the way to fill in the neglected mid-range hotel market. 

Despite the fact that the building has been neglected and vacant for decades, the hotel has an attractive facade that features a subtle Italianate style of architecture that combines red brick masonry with “arcuated fenestration” which is a fancy term that describes the layout and design of “bent or arched” windows and doorways in a building. 

The hotel owner, Ganesh Sanpatki, purchased the building in 2008 and wanted to begin renovation immediately, but the difficult economy at that time prevented the renovation and delayed the project. Sanpatki is the same hotelier who renovated the Value Inn Hotel near PSU campus, turning a dilapidated eyesore into an attractive looking modern hotel, with all the needed amenities for tourists and locals. 

Sonpatki has expressed slight frustration, in a Daily Journal of Commerce article at having to put a lot of money into a hotel that is small and designed to cater the mid-priced market. 

With five to seven existing store front spaces below the two floors of hotel rooms, the building will be an asset not only for out-of-towners who need a good hotel to stay at, but also for local business entrepreneurs wanting to open up small boutiques and shops near the Pearl. 

The Harlow was built by entrepreneur and Troutdale founder Captain John Harlow. Harlow was a sea captain from Maine, who came to Oregon in 1849 and eventually settled here, opening up trout farms and thereby giving Troutdale its name. Harlow built the hotel in downtown Portland hoping to cash in on the coming transcontinental railroad station just blocks away. At the time the building was known as Grand Central Station Portland, and was then later renamed Union Station. 

Inside the Harlow 82 Block building

By including retail shop space on the ground level, Harlow demonstrated a savvy business sense that would serve him and the hotel's occupants well for many decades. Sadly, Harlow passed away in 1883, about a year after the hotel opened.  At that point his wife, Celeste Harlow, took over management. Harlow's wife sold the building in 1902 and the new owner changed the name to The Park. The hotel was sold again in 1907 and the hotel's name was changed again, to The Muckle Building.

Decades later, in the 1970's, the building fell into disrepair and finally ended up condemned as a fire hazard. 

Even after it was built, the building was slow to incorporate needed amenities like central heating, proper indoor plumping and electricity. At one point, the hotel had one restroom, with two small sections for men and women to relieve themselves. However, to gain access to that lavatory room, one had to exit the building at the south end of the second floor, walk out onto an open air fire escape and then walk a short distance east to another doorway to get to the room. That bathroom was apparently still in use only a few decades before the hotel was finally condemned. 

There is no doubt that the Harlow is a structure well worth saving. So much of Portland's historical architecture is being destroyed due to controversial demolitions, as out-of-state real estate developers make way for huge apartment and condo structures. It’s comforting to know that Ganesh Sonpatki is so determined to invest in and save old Portland hotel buildings in our fair city. 

I myself can envision the new and improved Harlow Hotel as a sparkling example of old world elegance, once again offered to Portland's local inhabitants and personally, I can't wait for the building to be restored and given a new lease on life!

Theresa Griffin-Kennedy is a social activist writer, confessional poet, creative writing instructor, and paints abstract mixed-media with collage. She is a lifetime resident of Portland and a die-hard Oregonian. She lives in Portland with her husband writer and retired police detective, Don DuPay. 

 

Related Slideshow: Harlow 82 Block Undergoes Renovations

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