Love unique properties, boutique hotels, and repurposed buildings? Portland has the motherload. It seems that every time I turn around, a new boutique property has opened in my favorite Northwest city. The latest: The Society Hotel, which we checked out on a rainy January weekend.
No doubt about it, the Society Hotel is ideal for a grown up getaway, parent-child mini-vacation, or girls’ weekend: rooms are sized for two, not the whole crew. I visited with my teen son, for a weekend of soccer, college touring, and city fun. The property was recently repurposed from the historic building’s heyday as sailors’ quarters in the 1880s, and the renovation has been done beautifully, with dark paneled wood, period wall decor and flooring, and of course, the high ceilings and long windows of the era. Lodging options include a mixture of full and queen rooms, small suites, and bunkhouse beds.
While the Society is built around the bunkhouse/European hostel concept, it’s decided upscale. No scruffy backpackers here…during our stay, we saw primarily the urban hipster, Millennial crowd. Upon entering the lobby, we were immediately both wowed and put at ease: the vibe is trendy, but warm and cozy. In the heart of the lobby area is the Society Cafe, which serves incredible coffee and pastries in the morning and craft cocktails at night. Situated around the cafe counter are sofas, a fireplace, cozy tables and chairs. Certainly, you could order an herbal tea and just sit for an evening (which I did). Across from the check-in desk, a bulletin board awaits guests with ‘pinned’ activity suggestions from around the Portland area.
The hotel is now LEED certified, and has WiFi included, as well as a text-service that connects guests to the front desk day or night. The Society is located in the city’s historic Old Town/Chinatown district, which I love: during our stay, my son and I were in the heart of the city, steps away from Portland’s famous food truck pods, Voodoo Donut, and the Pearl District. Public transport is right around the corner. Normally, this type of city center location, combined with boutique ambiance in an historic building equals a high room rate, but this is the beauty of the Society: rates start at just $75 for rooms and $40 for bunks.
The Society has three room types. By far the most unique is the bunkhouse, which offers hostel-style bunks with, again, an upscale flair. Each bunk has WiFi, a reading light, outlets and plugs, and a privacy curtain. The bunks reminded me of high-end overnight train compartments. Bunkhouse guests share bathroom facilities, a small kitchen, and laundry facilities, and have access to private lockers. Bunks are $40, and would make a fun option for a group.
The hotel also houses 26 private rooms on the upstairs levels, which have either a full or queen bed, wash station with sink and mirror, and plenty of storage in the form of pegs, hangers, and under-bed cubes. These rooms truly do have a European guesthouse feel. Bathrooms are shared on each hallway, and are very spacious and clean. Shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel were provided, as well as towels and bathrobes. In the US, it is definitely a departure from the norm to feature shared bathroom facilities, but we found it to be no big deal. For $75/night in the heart of Portland, it’s a steal, really.
If you really want your own bathroom, opt for a suite. They’re still only around $110/night. These rooms are bigger than the standard rooms, but not by much; don’t expect square footage to rival your house, as can be the case with some hotel suites.
I’ve saved the best for last. My absolute favorite feature of the Society, even more so than the cozy lobby and cafe, is the rooftop deck. This 5th floor outdoor space is partially covered (for the rainy weekends like the one we ‘enjoyed’), and wrapped with beautiful wood benches, a Zen garden, and landscaping. You get 360 degree views of the city: I loved coming up here with my coffee in the morning, then again to see the city skyline at night, with a glass of wine. The Society has thoughtfully put out a little locker of cozy blankets to use while enjoying the space.
There is no dedicated parking at the Society, which I fretted about before arrival. I hate worrying about my car, and I hate paying dearly for city parking. The front desk staff gave me the inside scoop on where to find street parking, and we found we easily parked within a quarter block of the hotel during our entire stay. Nights were complete free, and during the day, we were gone in the car most of the time. In total, I may have spent $5 on parking over three days. That sure beats the heck out of $30-40 nightly parking fees at surrounding hotels.
In a nutshell, if you want a unique, historic place to stay in the heart of Portland without the city prices, and are willing to adjust your expectations a bit when it comes to lodging, the Society is for you. I encourage you to give it a try! I know we’ll be back!
As I disclose whenever applicable, we stayed at the Society on a media rate, for the purpose of review. All opinions remain our own.