Benton Hotel - Corvallis, OR
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member NW_history_buff
N 44° 33.875 W 123° 15.732
10T E 479178 N 4934616
Quick Description: This historic hotel was erected in 1925, the same time as when the Pacific Highway was paved from Canada to Mexico and to take advantage of the 'new age of automobile transportation.'
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 7/9/2018 3:57:46 PM
Waymark Code: WMYQ57
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member TheBeanTeam
Views: 2

Long Description:
The Benton Hotel one of the largest historical buildings in downtown Corvallis and sits right along the Pacific Highway 99W. It was erected in 1925, at the dawn of the automobile age, and in the same time frame as when the Pacific Highway was first paved from Canada to Mexico which made it the longest stretch of continuously paved road in the United States at the time.

The following excerpts are taken from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form from 1982 to highlight this historic former hotel's prominence and influence to the social and economic betterment of the community over the years - and for which its direct access to the historic Pacific Highway aided in its success as an institution:

Wrap Text around ImageIt is difficult to measure the impact the Benton Hotel has had on the social, commercial, political and cultural structure of Corvallis. Being located within one block of the Southern Pacific Railroad station, ten blocks from the university and in the heart of the commercial core of Corvallis, the building served as host to nearly every conceivable event or convention for over thirty years. At the time of construction, the population of Corvallis had only slightly exceeded eight thousand people. Furthermore, the local economy was somewhat depressed and while other similar communities were content in their respective status quo, the citizens of Corvallis were building what was at the time and still is the largest structure within the commercial district.

The Hotel Benton's contributions to the social life of Corvallis are well documented. Virtually every week between 1925 and 1960, some event of community interest took place at the hotel. As the ballroom could hold approximately three hundred people and since the dining room was clearly the best in the community, all major events were held there. The Commercial Club, which was the predecessor to the Chamber of Commerce, held its regular meetings in the hotel until only recently. Beside the Kiwanis Club, the Club has been historically one of the most influential groups in Corvallis. Each group has held weekly meetings at the hotel as did the Zonta Club, the local women's club. The Town Club, a social organization, met monthly in formal attire from 1925 to 1960. Dance groups found the ballroom to their advantage,including the Tilicums, a social dance club, as well as the Monads, a formal dance club.

Wrap Text around ImageMany college (later, university) activities took full advantage of the Benton Hotel as well. In particular, all fraternities and sororities held dances in the ballroom. The Thirty-Staters, the original Oregon Agricultural College alumni club, met there on a monthly or weekly basis.

Being situated across from Benton County Courthouse, the hotel had more than a casual role in the area's legal history. From 1925 to 1971, prisoners in the county jail were fed meals prepared by the hotel. Similarly, the sequestering of jurors, sometimes for several weeks as in the case of important murder trials, was accomplished by the Benton Hotel.

Because of its large banquet and ballroom facilities, as well as the quality of its accommodations, the Hotel Benton had the advantage of other local hotels for major events. Conventions sponsored largely by the university as a vehicle for the exchange of ideas was an added benefit to the citizens of Corvallis. Clearly, the Benton Hotel became the outlet for such events as no other local hotels had comparable facilities. Scarcely a month went by from 1920 to 1950 when issues of local, regional and national importance were not expounded upon through public forums at the hotel.

Wrap Text around ImageAthletic events have clearly played an important role in the development of the Benton Hotel as well as the community of Corvallis. As might be imagined in a college town, visiting teams and sports personalities have resided in the Benton Hotel prior to appearances and contests. In October, 1943, world heavyweight champion, Joe Lewis, visited the hotel prior to speaking to soldiers stationed in nearby Camp Adair. The sport of basketball was responsible for many changes to the hotel. Because of the large size of many of the players, seven-foot beds were ordered and installed to encourage various athletic departments' business. In 1955, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Western Regional tournament, was held in Corvallis. The finals saw University of San Francisco, behind center Bill Russell, defeat Oregon State University, 57-56 and go on to win the national title. All teams competing in the tournament were staying at the Benton Hotel. During a post-tournament celebration, chairs were thrown through the many windows and the police were called to quell the disturbance. Unable to do so, the local priest from the Catholic church held a midnight mass and order was restored. Subsequently, all the windows in the hotel were replaced with aluminum windows of the casement variety.

Wrap Text around ImageVarious entertainers including musicians and opera personalities have performed or appeared at the hotel since its opening. Corvallis has had a fondness for the opera as exemplified by numerous Metropolitan Opera events staged in the Benton Hotel or community. A partial list might include: Richard Benelli, 1937, Charles Coleman, tenor, 1943, Gene Watson, contralto, 1944, AlexanderKipnis, baritone, 1945, Ann Kaskas, contralto, 1945, and Kirt Baum, tenor, 1948. Other musicians known to stay in the hotel include Vironsky and Babin (1944), duo pianists, and Virginia Morely and Livingston Gearheart (1945). A number of renowned Hollywood and Broadway actors and actresses utilized the hotel during visits to Corvallis, including Mary Astor and Shirley Temple during the 1940 s, Will Rogers, Jr. in 1943, and John B. Hughes, a well known radio and news commentator.

Political organizations were quick to recognize the resources provided by the Benton Hotel. Governor Dewey, a Republican presidential candidate, spoke at the hotel on his swing through the Pacific Northwest in 1948. John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy spoke at the hotel as well as Governor Ronald Reagan. Virtually every Oregon candidate for governor from 1925 to 1960 would either speak at or reside in the "Benton" while politicking in Conrallis. Others of note known to have stopped and spoken at the hotel during the period of 1940 to 1960 include vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon; Governor John Rockefeller; Secretary of Agriculture Claude Wickard; and Representative Charles Hallick, Majority Leader of the 80th Congress.

The former hotel now serves as low-income housing for homeless and low-income residents. There are a couple of commercial businesses on the main floor.

State: Oregon

Nearest City: Corvallis

Type: Americana - Motel, diner, roadside attraction, etc.

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