Finest Country Inn"
1921, Oregon lumber magnate and philanthropist, Simon Benson, speaking
of the regions' fledgling tourism industry, observed, in part: "We
have built good roads and invited the world to come view our beauty
spots, but we have done nothing toward taking care of them after
they arrive." In response to that need, Benson built the Columbia
Hotel property, once a Native American meeting ground, was the site
of Phelps Mill in the mid 1800's, after whom our creek is named.
The mill made staves for the whiskey barrels carried by mules from
Hood River to the east. Then in 1904, Hood River pioneer Robert
Rand capitalized on the area's spectacular beauty by constructing
the Wah Gwin Gwin Hotel, named for the 207' waterfall on the property.
The hotel operated successfully as a summer resort for 17 years,
until Simon Benson tore it down to make way for his new Hotel. The
layout of the grounds and trails, developed by Rand, remained the
setting for the new Columbia Gorge Hotel.
by Portland architect Morris H. Whitehouse as the "Hotel Benson",
the Hotel was under construction for less than a year. The Italian
Stonemasons brought over to work on the new Columbia River Highway
built the stone walls and bridges for Benson's new "Waldorf of the
West". The "wooden" Beams so visible in the public areas are actually
made of plaster and required five artisans, working in concert,
June 21, 1921, the Columbia Gorge Hotel opened with a grand reception
and quickly developed an international reputation. Notable visitors
in the early years included Presidents Roosevelt and Coolidge, actresses
Clara Bow, Myrna Loy, Jane Powell, and Shirley Temple. The Hotel
is rumored to have been a favorite hideaway for Rudolph Valentino,
after whom our Valentino Lounge is named.
the depression, the Hotel fell on hard times and was purchased by
the Neighbors of Woodcraft as retirement home. Such it remained
for a quarter of a century, until the ongoing restoration began
owned and operated, the Columbia Gorge Hotel continues to be an
elegant retreat in the heart of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic
Area. Renowned for its dramatic surroundings and award-winning cuisine,
the Hotel is the perfect place for an extended escape or a memorable
Hood Railroad and enjoying the beautiful landscape
are two of the many attractions that bring visitors to the
Columbia River Gorge.