KGW, March 13, 2023
PORTLAND, Ore. — A historic hotel in Old Town that was a landmark for the Japanese-American community in Portland is set to be demolished.
The Yamaguchi Hotel was built in the late 1800s in what was known as “Japantown”. It was owned and operated by Japanese-American immigrants. The Yamaguchi family managed the hotel in the upper floors from 1921-1941.
Chisao Hata is the creative director of the Living Arts program at the Japanese American Museum of Oregon.
“These are buildings that for me, as an artist, hold stories. They hold our memories, they hold history,” Hata said.
The homeless outreach nonprofit Blanchet House has owned the building since 1958. It wasn’t until 2012 that they moved meal service and shelter beds to a new building next door.
The hotel itself has been vacant for 11 years and was deemed unsafe by the city because of falling bricks. A fence was put up around the building for safety. Blanchet House said it doesn’t have the millions of dollars to restore the building and bring it to code.
Hata said it’s very unfortunate the hotel has to be demolished.
“The buildings are basically neglected and it’s hard to understand why there can’t be pride in whatever you have possession of but demolition by neglect is something that has really been happening in this area by a long time,” Hata said.