A McMenamins Hotel Experience!
I stayed at the Edgefield with my sister, long before I was writing about "Notable Nights" in a blog.
and transforming historic properties for years. We decided to spend a night at one of their hotels, just outside of Portland. The property had once been a Poor Farm.
"The Multnomah County Poor Farm" of 1911
I remember when Jennifer and I first pulled up to this amazing place, 7 years ago.
We knew the property had once been an institution for those in need, but that was just the beginning of what made the place so curious.
Hard to Imagine
This old photo shows the building over 100 years ago, when the facility opened as a welfare reform effort. The plan was to give refuge for the poor and ill. Those who were able-bodied, worked on the farm.
The institution was called a "poor farm" for decades. During the depression the farm held 600 residents, but the numbers dropped during WWII. The institution then became a nursing home, called Edgefield Manor, until it closed in 1982.
The Administrator's House
When Jennifer and I arrived 7 years ago, there were no rooms left in the main building. We took a guest room in the sweet 2-story house, that had once been the Administrator's home. We felt like young sisters again, sharing a room... with a bathroom down the hall.
Arriving With Don
Don and I arrived on a beautiful July day, for our Edgefield overnight. We were glad there were rooms available in the main building, even if we couldn't get one with a private bath.
Halls and Art
The interior was a little dim and stuffy, like I remembered. But the painted doors and murals lifted the institutional feel.
I remembered many of the colorful doors! Each guest room had a painted image, honoring a former resident of the poor farm/nursing home.
I hoped our room would have a colorful drummer rabbit or a farmer with bunnies, but our door had an image of a horse behind a door. I could barely even see the horse in the painting. I was briefly disappointed.
I didn't appreciate our special room until I read the words about Old Colonel, on the wall. Old Colonel was a horse, not a human resident of the poor farm.
A Loyal Horse
The words on the wall, told the story of the heroic horse, that once worked for the fire bureau, near Portland. When he retired from fighting fires, he did light duty at the farm, where he was reunited with one of his old colleagues. He and the fireman recognized each other, having worked together for 11 years. Sweet...
Our cozy room was missing a few things, like air-conditioning. But, I loved having an open window and a fan! I didn't miss the TV or phone. I was even okay with hiking down the hall for a bathroom. But the absence of a sink, took some getting used to.
After unloading our bags in the room, Don and I took off to explore the halls. I loved the little jack-in-the-box. It was painted, where wall meets the ceiling.
I also loved the tiny wall nook, that confused the eye. The woman, window and phone were painted, but the shelf and pamphlets were real.
A guest now and then might find some of the artwork creepy or even disgraceful. But most visitors are totally delighted to see how different artists, have playfully incorporated the images of former residents, into the art. There were stories and write ups behind many of the colorful murals. We needed a week to absorb it all.
Winery, Brewery and Distillery
After wandering the halls, we headed out to the grounds. 100 years ago, there were 330 acres of farmland, where residents worked to provide food for the institution. Today, there are fewer acres, but there are fruit trees and vegetables and herb gardens. The vineyards and brewery and distillery provide good beverages, but jobs as well.
Finding a Bite to Eat
There were so many choices for food and drink, inside the main building. But for lunch, Don and I wandered outside to the Power Station, that once provided coal-fueled steam heat and electricity to the property. We had a light lunch on the garden patio.
Black Rabbit Restaurant
The Black Rabbit is the hotel's main restaurant. I remember eating breakfast in a cozy booth with Jennifer. The pretty restaurant was closing, when Don and I were ready for dinner at 10:00, but we got a booth back at the Power Station. Eating late isn't the healthiest, but it turned out to be cheaper. They had a late night Happy Hour Menu!
One of my favorite parts of staying both times, was enjoying the many porches. Don and I actually made use of about 3 different ones. Most of the time, we had them to ourselves.
You'd have to have more than a night, or be a total drunken fool, to enjoy all the pubs and taverns. Just finding them was fun enough. Some were hidden inside the building and some were hidden underneath growth!
You also have to have time, if you want to to fit in a 2-hour movie. Jennifer and I had fun taking photos from the balcony in the movie house. Don and I also peeked inside when it wasn't movie time. That was actually good though. In the dark we would have missed seeing the gremlins near the ceiling.
Quick Soak at Ruby's
I got to enjoy the salt water pool on both visits. Don and I had to rush after dinner, to get there before closing. We changed and hurried in our cotton bathrobes to "Ruby's Spa" and hit the water by 10:45.
At 11, a voice in the pitch dark announced closing time. (luckily there was no whistle) The lack of light actually made the exit of pool guests pretty comical. We offered some cell phone light to one couple who had lost their flip flops. Before long, the guests were all headed down the garden path, towards the hotel... looking like a parade of ghosts in our white robes.
Ghosts in the Hall
Many of the robed guests continued to wander in the halls, studying the murals. It felt totally different than hours before, when day guests were visiting. It was quiet and cozy and dim. Then the robe-wearing ghosts in the hall, suddenly looked more like patients in a mental ward. That amused me.
My stay at Edgefield was every bit as fun, the second time as the first. I felt like I was floating around in a dream, with all the whimsical art and dim lighting. I love knowing that I didn't see it all. There are so many hidden surprises that I will just have to find next time!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!