Saturday, January 4, 2014

View Point Inn: Basic History


View Point Inn:

First opened in 1924 or 1925, then closed in 1962, then opened, briefly in 1997 before being closed again... When it finally reopened, in 2006, I think, it quickly showed up in the 2008 movie Twilight before closing due to fire damage in 2011. 
 I'll try not to draw a connection, since I know a few people like that film and I don't want to see them put off by a comment about karma...

The most recent owner, Geoff Thompson, started repairing the Inn in 2013.

The original property was owned by Lorens Lund, a Danish immigrant who came to the United States in the 1870’s. Lund and Norwegian wife, Mari, gave the name “Thor’s Heights” to their 120 acres overlooking Crown Point in the Columbia River Gorge. The land was later purchased by the Grace H. Palmer Corporation. Mrs. Palmer hired highly renowned Portland architect, Carl Linde, to design and build a $47,000 Tudor Arts and Crafts Style “tea house” and “resort”. The Palmer House, as it came to be called, opened on June 4, 1925, in hopes of capturing the growing market of automobile tourism that was growing in the Gorge area thanks to the Columbia River Highway.

Mrs. Palmer’s hopes were dashed however in 1927, as bankruptcy forced the Grace H. Palmer Corporation to liquidate and sell the Palmer House. Luckily, William Moessner, the prestigious German chef de cuisine of downtown Portland’s Benson Hotel purchased the property and renamed it The View Point Hotel. He ran a highly successful business with his wife Clara for over 50 years. It was during this time that numerous Hollywood celebrities, famous Americans, and European royals frequented the Inn, including such notables as President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charlie Chaplin. The View Point Hotel remained highly successful until the 1960’s.

The Inn became a regular stop for charter buses bringing visitors to the Gorge for a salmon dinner.
Clarence E. Mershon.  East of the Sandy: The Columbia River Highway.  Portland:  Guardian Peaks, Inc.  2001.  1st Edition.  (37)

After the opening of Interstate 84, automobile tourism along the Columbia River Highway faded away, as did the many inns and restaurants dotting the scenic drive. Proprietor William Moessner, however, stubbornly refused to accept defeat. Every day, he kept the inn immaculate and ready for business. While there is much speculation, no one really knows when the last meal was served. However, we do know that Moessner faithfully tended to the ghost hotel up until the day of his death in 1979. 
From View Point Inn:  

Moessner closed the Inn in 1962, but continued to live on the premises until his death in 1979.
Clarence E. Mershon. East of the Sandy: The Columbia River Highway. Portland: Guardian Peaks, Inc. 2001. 1st Edition. (37)

The inn was subsequently purchased in 1982 by Doug and Karen Watson, who helped to win it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Only four properties boast this prestigious distinction in the entire Columbia River National Scenic Area.
From View Point Inn:

The Inn is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  When an inventory of historic buildings was completed for the proposed Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the Inn was closed, hence was not included as a commercial enterprise.  Therefore we have an incongruity - an Inn with a recognized historic importance that cannot now operate as an Inn.  This is unfortunate, not only because of the historic significance of the building, but because it should be open for use by the public.  [Its restrooms would be a welcome addition for visitors, particularly the elderly or disabled.]
Clarence E. Mershon. East of the Sandy: The Columbia River Highway. Portland: Guardian Peaks, Inc. 2001. 1st Edition. (37)

The Inn’ current owner, Geoff Thompson, secured the property in 1997 and started a very successful restaurant and bed & breakfast. In 1998 the U.S. Forest Service purchased the land surrounding the property and wanted to link the inn with the nearby Vista House to create a state park. Government agencies colluded together and drove Thompson off his land in 1999. 

Recently, after re-opening in 1997 under a very restrictive permit issued by Multnomah County, the new owners found themselves involved in a court case engendered by a complaint about its operation and parking. The court found that the owners of the Inn had violated their operating permit. An appeal to the Gorge Commission failed for the reason cited above. Apparently, an Act of Congress would be required to allow the Inn to operate as an Inn. Hence, the View Point Inn joins the list of historic structures that have not fared well under the Scenic Area Act, despite its provisions related to historic preservation.
Clarence E. Mershon. East of the Sandy: The Columbia River Highway. Portland: Guardian Peaks, Inc. 2001. 1st Edition. (37 - 38)

Due to his great love of the gorgeous historic property, Thompson fought to legally block the sale of the inn and the ghost hotel sat empty for the next four years. In 2003, he returned and purchased the inn a second time with his partner Angelo Simione. After a three year legal battle, which included amending a Federal Act, Thompson finally emerged victorious! That December, The View Point Inn became an Oregon landmark once again.

Before the fire...  View Point Inn from Portland Women's Forum Viewpoint, Corbett, Oregon. February 22, 2011.

The historic 1296 Inn is nowadays famed for its part in the hit vampire movie Twilight. Fans come from around the world to see the prom scene "Hotel Monte Carlo" and maybe go on the "Twilight Sights" bus tour hosted by the Inn. The Inn has quaint rooms and a breakfast/lunch/dinner dining room just dripping with old-time charm and elegance.
Scott Cook. Curious Gorge: Over 100 Hikes and Explorations in the Columbia River Gorge. Hood River, OR: Scott Cook. 2010. 3rd Edition. (19)

View Point Inn & burned roof from Women's Forum Viewpoint. Columbia River National Scenic Area. Oregon. October 16, 2012

The historic View Point Inn and Restaurant in Corbett lost most of its roof in a fire Sunday, and blackened debris covered the furniture and floor on the hotel's second floor. But the owners of the hotel, which overlooks the Columbia River Gorge, are still not sure how they will pay for repairs.

The building has not been insured since April, said Geoff Thompson, who owns the inn with his partner Angelo Simione.

Sophia Li, The Oregonian "View Point Inn in Corbett was uninsured, say owners after Sunday's fire"  The Oregonian July 11, 2011 at 8:57 PM, updated July 13, 2011 at 7:28 PM

Another article on the fire, with photos...

September 28, 2011, Willamette Week Cover Story:
LARGER THAN LIFE: Thompson's crucifixion picture.
IMAGE:  Willamette Week / James Rexroad

Like rubberneckers at a car crash, gawkers flock to the Viewpoint Inn.

Some inch close to the cliff at the edge of the property and gaze at the Columbia River, 1,100 feet below.
Twilight groupies make the pilgrimage to see where pivotal scenes from the 2008 cult vampire flick were shot.

Others come to inspect the damage from a July fire that left the 87-year-old inn a charred ruin.

And everybody who visits the Viewpoint now witnesses something else: a larger-than-life photo of inn owner Geoff Thompson, his bodybuilder’s physique naked except for a strategically placed banner.

Above Thompson’s head on the photo are the words “Small Business Crucified,” and across his midsection, the banner reads, “By the Obama Administration.”

The Christ metaphor suits Thompson’s worldview.

“It’s been rough here,” Thompson says. “But what I’ve gone through has made me an amazing human being.”

The crucifixion image is unsettling to neighbors in the unincorporated east Multnomah County hamlet of Corbett.

Nigel Jaquiss. "The Crucifixion of Geoff Thompson" Willamette Week. September 28th, 2011
View Point Inn and Larch Mountain from Chanticleer Point

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Oregon. April 23, 2013. 

Despite the obstacles and fleeting hope, Geoff Thompson is finally taking the initial steps toward restoring the View Point Inn, a historic building in Corbett that was ravaged by fire in July 2011.

Money from an insurance settlement will fund the project, which, Thompson said, will be complete in spring 2014.

He added that the structure will need a new roof, and there is significant interior damage. Reconstructing the building’s shell should be complete by Labor Day, and then the focus will move to the interior next winter.
Kristopher Anderson. "Construction begins at View Point Inn" Portland Tribune.  January 18, 2013

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