The stately site on which the Columbia Gorge Hotel now stands was originally developed in 1904 by Bobby Rand, a Hood River pioneer, as the Wah Gwin Gwin Hotel (a Native American name meaning "rushing water," in reference to the 208' waterfall on the grounds).
These were the days of steamers navigating the waters of the Columbia River from the Cascades to The Dalles. To alert the hotel, the captains would sound the whistle once for each guest he had on board. Maids would then quickly make up the appropriate number of beds.
In 1920, Rand sold his interests in the hotel to Simon Benson. Benson had just helped complete what many of the era claimed to be the world's most beautiful road, the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway. Benson's dream was to create an opulent hotel for travelers at the end of this road. He hired some of the same Italian stone masons that had built the highway to embellish his hotel.
The hotel had barely opened before it had an international reputation. Presidents Roosevelt and Coolidge, actresses Myrna Loy, Jane Powell, and rumor has it, Rudolph Valentino are some of the notables to have graced the hotel.
During the depression, the hotel fell on hard times and was purchased by the Neighbors of Woodcraft as a retirement home. Such it remained for a quarter of a century, until the ongoing restoration began in 1977. Now corporately owned and operated, The Columbia Gorge Hotel has been brilliantly restored to a new opulence. The hotel stands proudly atop a bluff overlooking the mighty Columbia River greeting its visitors with warmth and elegance continuing to be an elegant oasis in the heart of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.*
* Excerpts taken from A Taste for Comfort by Anita Stewart, 1993, C&D Publishing, Portland, Oregon
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