Gem Hotel, circa 1918

The Gem Hotel was located on SW 1st Avenue between SW Sheridan Street and Arthur Street, circa 1918. This comes from a collection of Housing Authority images depicting housing conditions.


City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2012-003.28

City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2012-003.28


View this image in Efiles by clicking here.

12 thoughts on “Gem Hotel, circa 1918

  1. With regards to the Gem: housing 100 people with few windows and little ventilation. Whew. And what…….. a row of out houses in the back running down feeding the Willamette?

  2. Tip Top bread was baked by the Log Cabin bakery on Williams avenue. This later became Wonder bread and still later a New Seasons market was built on the site.

  3. The Gem Hotel, at the south end of the former bridge over Marquam Gulch, had a checkered and sort of brief history.

    Don’t know when it was built, but before 1911 it was called “The Bellview.” In 1911, it was advertised as “new, modern (steam heat !), and clean” and under new management. The building’s absentee landlord owner was one Aaron Burr Root of Portland via Kelso. The hotel openly catered to the “transient trade.” Small housekeeping rooms rented for about $0.25 per day to $1.50 and up per week. The building’s rear supports and a chimney were seriously damaged by a mudslide in Marquam Gulch in Jan. 1914; the city paid for repairs to the hotel and shoring up the hillside ($908), but the proprietor (William J. Gunn) sued for a additional damages to the hotel worth a claimed $9,400 (final outcome unknown). The city deemed the Marquam bridge supports “safe.” The hotel was often raided by police during 1916-1919 in crackdowns on prostitution and opium smoking. The poverty of many residents is attested to by their placement of frequent newspaper ads seeking any kind of work. A “spectacular” fire broke out at the hotel in Nov. 1919 and apparently burned most of it down, with one firefighter injured after falling through the second floor. The building was said to be empty for several weeks before the conflagration. Sounds suspicious… (Sources: the usual Oregonian and Oregon Journal archives.)

  4. While the living conditions sound pretty squalid for 1918, I ran into some pretty suspect conditions when I first got to Portland in the early ’70s.

    One SRO near SW 16th and Morrison had padlocks and hasps on the outside of the doors and no way to lock the door once you were inside. But someone could lock you in. Sharing the bathroom was pretty standard in many apartments in NW.

    The cheapest place I lived was $24.00/mo sharing bath and kitchen. Didn’t really live there but stored my stuff while away on a summer bike tour. This was in the SW 14th and Jefferson area.

  5. Another wonderful snapshot into Portland’s past. I see Hebrew writing in one window and the vapor of a woman caught on camera plus the classic Coca Cola trademark! Amazing!

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