The Desert Room – Mystery Location

LIFE Magazine photographer NR Farbman took a series of photographs in 1957 labeled “Portland Vice.” This photo shows Portland’s infamous “Desert Room.” Apparently it was the social hub of Portland’s underworld. The building still stands and would be recognizable if you stood in this spot. Anyone?

(LIFE)

9 Responses to “The Desert Room – Mystery Location”

  1. Chris Says:

    My guess would be where the “Ace hotel” is now on about 10th and Stark.

  2. Parker Says:

    It’s definitely on Stark but a couple blocks up from the Ace Hotel, between 12th and 13th/Burnside, across from Jakes, and right next to the tiny McMenamins Ringler’s Annex.

    See:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=ace+hotel&sll=45.523452,-122.676207&sspn=0.76587,1.783905&ie=UTF8&hq=ace+hotel&hnear=&ll=45.522723,-122.683599&spn=0,359.998258&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=45.522758,-122.683711&panoid=wnzaJMgT1egwV0WfGrPGqQ&cbp=12,48.23,,0,0.15

  3. portlandpreservation Says:

    That’s the building that McMenamins is renovating to be another hotel, I do believe. Oh, for those crazy days in Portland when one of the major vices was pinball machines – seems so absurd in 2010, but was a very real part of the organized crime scene in 1950s Portland.

  4. Alyson Clair Says:

    It used to be the seedy Club Portland, and McMenamins is in fact making it into a hotel. They have replaced all the painted over windows and I am sure had to do a major cleaning/overhaul inside.

    Speaking of Portland and Vice, has anyone seen the B movie “Portland Expose”? Which is also from 1957, has a lot of good Portland scenes around W Burnside.

  5. IndyMatt Says:

    Parker is right. Alyson, Club Portland was the on the East side of the building, off of 12th. This is the entrance to the old Silverado Bar.

  6. Tim Says:

    FABULOUS photo! (and great website, too!) Thanks for posting it. I’ve seen some of Life Magazine’s 1957 coverage of the Portland vice scandal, but never this one. Can you please pass along the source/citation? We would love to get a copy to include as part of the “gallery” of historic photos that will go up in the renovated hotel (by the way, we’re tentatively calling the old Desert Room space, Zeus’ Cafe, a tribute to Desert Room owner Nate Zusman and his wife Tillie. Nate always said his wife wore the pants in the family and he affectionately called her Zus (pr. “Zeus”).

    Can’t wait to see what the caption under the photo said! Who is that woman?

    Cheers,
    Tim
    McMenamins history guy

  7. Aitch Says:

    My mom and dad went to the Desert Room to hear some hot local singer (I guess the Storm Large of that era), and dad said the vibe in the place was really weird, even though he’d never been before. He asked a waiter what was up, and was told that they were expecting a vice raid later that night.

    I later learned from Phil Stanford’s Portland Confidential that the clubs would regularly pay off the beat cops small amounts and the police commish and mayor a lot more to keep the cops out of their business. But they’d have to satisfy the public’s demand for clean-up with occasional raids, of which the clubs were warned in advance. So that’s what was going down that night!

  8. Bikaner, Bikaner News, Bikaner Picture, Bikaner Industry, Rajasthani Songs Says:

    Bikaner, Bikaner News, Bikaner Picture, Bikaner Industry, Rajasthani Songs…

    [...]The Desert Room – Mystery Location « Vintage Portland[...]…

  9. Bob Taylor Says:

    This is on W. Burnside at around West Burnside and about 11 street on the South side of Burnside. It used to be called the Desert Room and is now a Gay hangout.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,232 other followers

%d bloggers like this: