The Sentinel Hotel in Portland

Port of call.

NUVO Winter 2015: The Sentinel Hotel in Portland, Inquiring Minds

Two historic halves make for one beautiful whole in the case of Portland’s Sentinel, a 100-room hotel that keeps watch over downtown from its perch on SW 11th Avenue. Opened last year by Provenance Hotels following a $6-million renovation, the Sentinel held on to the architectural flourishes for which it was named—the robotic sculptures atop the building—as well as the handsome bones of its prior inhabitants: the east wing was originally built as the Seward Hotel in 1909, and the west wing rose as a Portland Elks Lodge in 1923.

If history could seep from walls, it would flow freely here. The Sentinel’s design duality is first evident from street level where the façades appear as two completely different buildings. An Old-World elegance continues inside to the lobby—a custom-made check-in desk inspired by a vintage librarian’s table, and a ceiling laden with original gilt plaster relief—and follows guests up to the rooms with peacock feather–print wallpaper in the elevators.

The historic mixes with the modern seamlessly here and contemporary, large-scale black-and-white photographs of luminaries like Muhammad Ali, Vivienne Westwood, and Sid Vicious hang throughout the halls. Oregon’s great outdoors can be seen in the pressed and framed nettles and licorice ferns in the top-floor Bridgetown Parlour Suites, or in the rooms awash in emerald-green paint—an ode to the state’s verdant forests. And the Sentinel knows well that whimsy and luxury fit hand-in-hand: not only are the minibars stocked with local tinctures and artisanal offerings, but hotel staff will deliver a pint of Portland’s Salt & Straw ice cream to your room, upon demand. A plush pillow menu is expected, but a spiritual menu is on offer, too, with religious tomes like the Bhagavad Gita or the Torah just a phone call away.

In the early evenings, try to beat the after-work crowds that rush the main-floor Jackknife Bar for hip sips like the Bye Bye Sweet Pony (which shakes up whisky, ginger beer, with quince and maple syrup). For more of a Mad Men–like vibe, slip into Jake’s Grill for classic American fare; the moody ambience is well suited to an Old Fashioned and a jumbo prawn cocktail. (For a quicker bite, one of Portland’s famed food truck pods is just across the street.)

Naturally, the crème de la crème of Sentinel’s suites are on the top floor: the sixth. Sweeping city views are a given, but guests of the west wing suites also have privileged access to a grown-up rec room stocked with artsy magazines and snacks. (Try the Jacobsen Salt Co. caramel chews—the salt is harvested off the Oregon Coast.) This urban refuge, decorated by local curating company Boys’ Fort, is cheekily called “the Room at the End of the Hall” and the name is playfully emblazoned across its window—this is Portland, after all.