Today on a walk downtown, I happened upon two spruced up old buildings with goings on.
The Governor Hotel on SW Tenth Avenue, across from the Galleria building, is coming upon its 100th anniversary. To celebrate, the hotel is having an open house this Sunday, March 9, from 12:30 to 4:30PM. It's a chance to see inside places you'd normally have to pay for, in the form of overnight lodging.
Built in 1909, the Governor was originally called the Seward Hotel and was designed by William Knighton, who also was the first State Architect for the State of Oregon.
As explained in a history of the hotel on its website, "The Seward featured Knighton's signature details still seen in the ornate art deco 'gargoyles' that surround the original building's facade and the bell-shaped architectural details seen throughout the hotel's original woodwork, column panels and even fireplace mantles."
In its more downtrodden days before its renovation, filmmaker Gus Van Sant shot a scene or two from his superlative movie My Own Private Idaho with River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves (and Tom Peterson in a non-speaking role; no Gloria, though). Several scenes from the rapturously bad Madonna movie Body of Evidence were too (hope those hot candle wax stains came out).
Not to be outdone, the adjacent Princeton Building, which the hotel took over a few years ago, also played host as a location for The Temp, a more forgettable movie with Timothy Hutton, unofficial 'Actress of the 70s' Faye Dunaway, Twin Peaks' Lara Flynn Boyle, and a character actor I like, Oliver Platt.
As I've written before, though, I was disappointed a few years ago when the Governor Hotel moved its entrance to the Princeton Building side on 11th Avenue. It brought them more space, but shoulnd't you really enter the Governor through the Governor?
Still, overall I'm very glad the hotel exists as a work of architecture -- and one of the city's minor gems, to say the very least. I also have a fond memory of once, several years ago, having breakfast with the now deceased architect James Freed, designer of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC after he spoke at a lecture series I helped work on for the AIA in 2001.
A few blocks away at the Gerding Theater, formerly known as the Portland Armory, the renovated structure finally seems to be getting its 'Sliver Park', a water feature and plantings along the north side. Designed by Murase Associates, it's a nice little water runoff retention system that relies on a few simple stone blocks and a modest series of waterfalls created by how that side of the building grades slighty downward towards 10th. (Coincidentally, the Armory was another renovation project that moved its front entrance to the back.)
There are still a couple of orange cones there, and the plantings have barely grown at all yet. But my first impression is that it's a lovely little place, however not even close to being a "park". We're talking about a couple of benches, a bioswale and a few long slabs of stone with a tiny strip of moving water. It's a terrific sidewalk area - just not a park. Looks to me like some nice design work and some over-hyped marketing. And while I'm griping about this nicely done project, what took so long? After all, the building was finished quite a while ago. Still, if there's anything Murase projects do well, it's creating a serene, contemplative space. Perhaps that's a fitting indication not to quabble over details of timing and labeling that will eventually wash away over time like the very rainwater (sniff, sniff) passing through the sliver's stone and bioswale.