The Oregon Hotel

The first business constructed on the west side of the square, the Oregon Hotel was built in 1898 by Joel Smith Baily, who recognized the potential of a first class hotel next to the busy railroad tracks. Bailey leased the hotel to H. J. Brinson, who managed it and also gave it its name, after the US Battleship Oregon, which was active in the Spanish American War. Brinson was an experienced and capable hotel manager, and the enterprise was an immediate success. A favorite stopover for traveling salesmen, the Oregon became a destination in itself, serving as a convention center and the hub of the town's social activity.

On October 20, 1898, the Greenwood Index reported the successful launch of the Greenwood System of Water Works and Electric Lights. On its list of 23 initial "subscribers to incandescent lights", the Oregon Hotel, with 242 electric lights, consumed almost as much power as the rest of the town combined.

 

 

Here's a colorized view. A common practice at the time, colorization gave new life and circulation to old black and white postcards. The results vary with the skill and attitude of the artist, but the work on this image is excellent. This image is just a hand-painted version of the first black and white image. Or is it? If you look very closely, you can spot a few puzzling differences:

1. The window on the upper left has had its shade lowered.

2. The children have disappeared.

3. The Oregon Pharmacy sign is missing.

4. And this guy has lost his cart. (But not its shadow, or the guy behind him.)

 

Item #4 leaves no question that these are the same image. The alterations were masterfully done, considering that they were made by hand with a very small brush. But why? Maybe they borrowed the  photograph and were trying to make it look different. Maybe they thought this was different enough. Either they didn't think it through or someone was boldly flaunting a loophole in copyright law.

 

 

This less skillfully painted card looks like the same image again, but the angle is different. Different guys are hanging out by the entrance. Everything else is about the same, but you can tell it's a few years later than the previous shot. A water tower has been constructed behind the hotel and there are now two utility poles in front.

 

 

Most of the early shots of the Oregon focus on the hotel alone, isolating it from its surroundings. This is a slightly wider shot, taken from a little further back. The clutter of transmission lines probably explains why this vantage point wasn't more popular. However, this view more clearly shows the hotel's location and orientation. To the left, barely in the shot, is the turret of the Syndicate Block, with Maxwell Avenue running between.

 

 

In 1910 a large three-story annex was added, and the rambling structure now took up an entire block of Maxwell Avenue. Among the businesses housed inside were the Oregon Pharmacy, LaTour’s Barber Shop, a pool room, Western Union offices, and a wholesale grocery business.

The hotel continued to thrive until March 3, 1912, when a fire of undetermined origin consumed the entire block. No lives were lost, but the hotel and all of its tenant businesses were completely destroyed.


Next: The New Oregon. (coming soon)