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‘Waldorf of the West’ goes out of business


Columbia Gorge Hotel owners cite failed sales, health problems

HOOD RIVER, Ore. – The Columbia Gorge Hotel was built in 1921 as the “Waldorf of the West” and housed the likes of Rudolph Valentino, Shirley Temple, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt.

Now, owners Boyd and Halla Graves have closed it. They say they face health problems and a mortgage of more than $4 million, while financing has run out and two sales have fallen through.

Halla Graves says her husband had nine cardiac procedures in 2007. “We’re penniless, and my husband’s 73 years old,” said Graves. “I’ve got to go to work. It’s daunting.”

Joe Kennedy, president and owner of Crystal Investment Property in Portland, said the economy hasn’t helped with the sale of the hotel, originally listed at $10 million. The asking price is now $5.9 million.

Timber tycoon Simon Benson built the 39-room hotel in a Mediterranean style, with stucco and red tile roofs. It employed 30 recently and would hire up to 130 workers during the May-December season.

For decades, day-trippers from around the region drove up the gorge for the hotel’s Sunday brunch. Guests reclined in wrought-iron, brass or four-poster beds. They sat in garden swing benches, sipped complimentary champagne and strolled by the top of a 208-foot-tall waterfall that cascades into the gorge.

The hotel was named 19th best hotel in North America by Travel + Leisure magazine as recently as 18 months ago. Rooms ranged from about $159 to $350. It had been fully booked for Valentine’s Day and set to host more than a dozen wedding parties.

The hoteliers say they scrambled to arrange financing until last Friday, when they shut the doors. Sale negotiations with the Lumiere Hotel Group of Coronado, Calif., had already fallen through.

“The grand old dame has a lot to offer,” said Matthew Nuss, Lumiere president. “I don’t think I can go into detail about what the roadblocks were.”

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