‘We’re still here’: Demolition of historic Japanese hotel

‘We’re still here’: Demolition of historic Japanese hotel in Old Town prompts outcry

The Oregonian, March 14, 2023

The structure that stands at the intersection of Northwest 4th Avenue and Glisan Street appears unremarkable at first look.

Its architecture is square and simple, and the dilapidated structure is partially covered in graffiti. But its significance goes beyond the building itself, says Chisao Hata, creative director of living arts at the nearby Japanese American Museum of Oregon.

From 1921 to 1941, the building operated as the Yamaguchi Hotel at the center of Portland’s Nihonmachi, or Japantown, in what’s now also known as Old Town Chinatown. One of the family members, Masae Yamaguchi, was also a well-known midwife within Portland’s Japanese American community in that period.

On Sunday, colorful origami cranes lined the fences surrounding the 1909 building to honor the hotel’s history and significance. Its current owner, Blanchet House, plans to demolish the structure and rebuild a medical center in its place. Blanchet House, which offers food, shelter and services to Portland’s homeless community, purchased the Yamaguchi Hotel in 1958 and occupied it until 2012, when it moved next door.

Blanchet House launched plans to remove the building five years ago, and Portland City Council approved its demolition in 2021.

Hata described the building’s condition as “demolition by neglect.”

Image courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.