Sentinels are look outs, always eyes forward, watchful and alert. Visionaries. When downtown Portland’s historic Governor Hotel underwent an extensive renovation and reemerged as an upscale, personalized boutique hotel in March 2014, it was reborn as the Sentinel. The tidy name is as much of a gentlemanly hat tip to the massive transformer-like architectural bodies stationed long the roofline as it is to the massive personalities that are captured in larger than life photos and prints throughout the 100-room property.
The stylish hotel was originally two separate adjacent buildings, developed by visionaries in the early part of the 20th century. The Seward Hotel was completed in 1909, a striking and singular design for Portland at that time by architect William Christmas Knighton. The Viennese-influenced Early Modern and modified Arts and Crafts styling introduced sophisticated glamour to the city’s influential movers and shakers, and familiarized glazed terra cotta for the exterior, a first for Oregon. Over the years it was rechristened the Governor Hotel (1932) and designated a National Historic Landmark in the mid-1980s before director Gus Van Sant filmed portions of My Own Private Idaho in the building, vacant at the time.
During the latest transformation into the Sentinel, the neighbouring Portland Elks Lodge No. 142 (1923) was merged with the Governor Hotel, uniting tales of secret meetings and ceremonies, as well as its elegant Italian Renaissance-inspired ballrooms, frescos, and columns, with the boutique property. It takes only a step into the soaring, dramatically fashioned lobby to recognize the grand history. En route to sumptuously quiet and whimsically chic guestrooms, images of global sentinels in every genre, from fashion and music to sciences and civil rights, greet visitors and demand a second glance.
The Sentinel, though, is primed to leave a lasting impression far into the future itself, through alliances with local producers and integration into the community. Bee Local, for example, was invited to install hives on the roof, providing a much-needed safe haven for honeybees in the urban core. After completing their nearby rounds, the honeybees’ labour is harvested, packaged, and labelled by area, so you can really get a taste of the local ‘hood. Matthew Domingo, Bee Local director of sales and marketing (and lapsed chef) praises the hotel as “huge supporters of the local food and food artisan economy in Portland. And they truly back up their words with actions—from local hives on their rooftops to local Salt & Straw ice cream on their amenities menu.”
A vehicle for taste is at Jackknife, the Sentinel’s modestly classic hotel lobby bar. Smart cocktails and savoury snacks are available from 3 p.m. until early morning, in an eclectic space from John Janulis and Jake Carey, the respected creators of local greats Bye and Bye, Sweet Hereafter, and Dig A Pony. Curving like a jackknife through distinct architectural spaces, including the synapse created by merging the two buildings, the stripped down and smartly sustainable handcrafted décor echoes the building’s unique historic character.
It could just be the power of suggestion, or the fuel from a well-made drink, but tucking into a cushy lounger in front of the double-sided fireplace, lit by a reclaimed art deco lamp, and warmed by a precisely proper Clover Club, promises all the inspiration you too need to become a sentinel.
The Sentinel and its kinship properties in the Provenance Hotels group will be home base for hundreds of feasters and drinkers during Feast Portland, taking place September 17 to 20. The annual event is one of the top extended weekends of unpretentious culinaria in North America, drawing able producers and eager consumers from around the globe to a full roster of tastings, talks, and feasts.