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I’m a big fan of libraries.
My all-time favorite — the Los Angeles Central Library — has long captivated me with its fascinating history (check out Susan Orleans’ “The Library Book” to see what I mean); its commanding presence over LA’s Pershing Square; and its seemingly endless collection of literary works spanning all genres, styles and subject matters.
It was this love for libraries that initially lured me to the 151-room Heathman Hotel during a recent mother-daughter vacation to Portland, Ore. In fact, the historic hotel, located in the heart of Portland’s Cultural Downtown District, has come to be known for — you guessed it — its book collection.
A grand, two-story space in the center of the property, Heathman Hotel’s Library features more than 3,000 books perched on a shelf that stands the full height of the room. But what is most spectacular about each copy is what is located inside its front cover: the author’s signature.
Sure enough, the first title I saw — Emma Cline’s “The Girls,” a 2016 novel about the Charles Manson family that I read for a recent book club meeting — featured Cline’s autograph. I next pulled Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” (of which I have my own dog-eared copy back at home), and sure enough, Bittman’s signature was there.
This on-site collection of autographed books is indeed impressive, much like the historic hotel itself. A 10-story concrete and brick building that was originally planned as a sister property to the original Heathman Hotel (located about a block away), the current structure began welcoming guests 92 years ago. When it opened, The Oregon Journal. dubbed it “Portland’s newest and most modern hotel.”
And now, nearly a century later, the Heathman seamlessly blends the historic with the modern. (Case in point: Roll up to the property’s Broadway Street entrance, and you’ll be greeted by a doorman clad in a 1920s-inspired uniform, which includes a double-breasted overcoat and Oxford shoes.) The building itself is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it has been renovated to incorporate modern touches. The Library, for example, became a focus of the property’s 2018 refresh; its book collection moved from the mezzanine level to replace the ground-level’s former Tea Court Lounge.
High tea still takes place on property, however, with Russian tea service offered weekly in the Library on Sundays (reservations are required in advance). There’s also Headwaters restaurant, which is helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Vitaly Payley and his wife, Kimberly Paley. With a focus on sustainable seafood, Headwaters is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with weekend brunch.
Guestrooms at the Heathman are modern and feel cozy. My mom and I enjoyed our top-floor, 474-square-foot Deluxe Two Double Bed, which was flooded with natural light reflecting off whitewashed, wood-paneled walls. A neutral color scheme warms up the space, offset by a pop of color from a large, blue area rug. Artwork produced by local artisans adorns guestroom walls.
Other accommodations in the Heathman’s Deluxe category range in size from 260 to 360 square feet. But groups of varying sizes have additional options, from Premier Rooms that feature a king bed and flexible workspace to Corner King Rooms with added chaise lounge seating. For larger groups, there’s also One-Bedroom Suites (featuring a living room and a pull-out sofa); Studio Suites (featuring a living room, a pull-out sofa and two bathrooms); and the 1,200-square-foot Grand Suite.
And when my mom and I weren’t in our room or among the Library’s stacks, we took advantage of the property’s central location in downtown Portland. On two occasions, we walked to The Pearl District, an adjacent shopping area that is home to Powell’s, the largest independent bookstore in the nation (and, as I later learned, a main contributor to the Heathman’s book collection.
We walked back to the Heathman with our brand-new books, settled into our guestroom under a rippling pool of sunlight and read — happily ever after.
The DetailsHeathman Hotelwww.heathmanhotel.com