First opening its historic doors in 1907 as the Nortonia, the Mark Spencer Hotel Portland is one of this Oregon town’s most iconic heritage properties. Designed in a tasteful, traditional style with vintage wallpaper and colourful carpets, the cozy lobby hosts free wine tastings every afternoon at 4pm and complimentary cookies and coffee served during the evenings.
This is a great way to meet other guests during your stay, while if you need to check emails or do some work, complimentary PC and internet access in the communal area is also on offer. On checking in reception staff will also offer their concierge services, and can book guests in at Portland’s finest restaurants, or help them buy tickets for events.
The hotel’s 102 guestrooms are spacious and climate controlled, and come equipped with basic kitchenette facilities such as an oven, on request microwaves and a fridge. Some rooms offer expansive views over downtown Portland and to the Willamette River, though our window offered only a disappointing interior view. To avoid this make sure to request a room with a view well in advance of checking in. Decor makes use of authentic wooden antique furniture, with each individual room offering its own unique style, but beds are large and modern, starting at Queen size. Business travellers will also be relieved at the large desks that occupy one corner of each room, offering more than enough space to work from.
All rooms receive a copy of the New York Times and, while wifi internet is available, if guests want to use it for more than 12 hours, they will have to pay for it. Access to a 24-hour fitness centre and gym is also on offer here, though guests will have to walk a short distance as it is located off-site. Toiletries tend to be upscale, with Molton Brown shampoo and soap provided in our bathroom.
One of the Mark Spencer Hotel’s biggest selling points is an enviable location in downtown, at the very heart of the Pearl District. Hundreds of bars and restaurants, many amongst the most stylish in the city, can be reached on foot in a matter of minutes. Fans of coffee will be pleased to know that the downtown branch of Portland favourite Stumptown is just seconds away, while cocktail lovers can stop in at nearby Clyde Common, home to the world-famous barrel-aged cocktail. Bibliophiles, meanwhile, should schedule a stop at Powell’s Books, handily located just a block away; this is the largest bookstore on the planet.
Portland’s modestly sized gay district is also just a short distance away, and the Mark Spencer Hotel is part of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, making it an ideal choice for LGBT guests. Being in such a vibrant area with streets bustling well into the night, the Mark Spencer is not particularly recommended for those who are expecting to sleep early, as noise from outside can occasionally be heard indoors.
A surface car-park exists across the street, though if you are bringing belongings ensure not to leave them in your vehicle overnight; the parking lot is unsupervised and open to the public. Friends we were travelling with on our stay at the Mark Spencer had their car broken into, and more than $1500 of personal items were stolen. If you need indoor, secure parking for your stay in Portland, think about looking elsewhere. Despite the robbery, the area immediately surrounding the hotel is known to be safe, so don’t let this freak occurrence put you off.
The Mark Spencer attracts a diverse range of guests, from those seeking a hotel with a bit more character than the bland, international chains, to visitors coming to experience downtown Portland’s famed nightlife. Though some of the rooms and corridors are a little rough around the edges, the hotel’s owners are currently in the middle of renovation; in fact the main entrance of the hotel was closed during our stay, and we had to enter through the adjoining office building. Check in advance to find out what disturbance, if any, building work will cause during your stay.
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