The lost symbol of elegance in downtown Prineville

By Steve Lent, Museum Historian

One of the grand hotels of Central Oregon was constructed in 1923 in downtown Prineville. The new hotel was built on the site of the old Hotel Prineville that was completely destroyed during the 1922 fire that swept downtown Prineville. The new hotel was promoted by local businessmen with the belief that no town could go forward and make substantial growth without a first class hotel. Plans to construct a new hotel after the Hotel Prineville burned began shortly after the 1922 fire. A contest was held in the community to choose a name for the new hotel and the winning submission chosen by the board of directors of the hotel was “Ochoco Inn’. Other names submitted were “The Oriental”, “Blue Mountain Inn”, “Pioneer Fountain Hotel”, “Oregon Trail Lodge”, “Hotel El Centro”, and “Ochoco Palace Hotel”.

Original construction costs were estimated to be $110,000 but final costs exceeded $200,000 by the time the project was completed. John Bennes designed the building and John Hedstrom, a Portland contractor, was the general contractor for the construction of the building. The structure consisted of two stories and was on over one-half block on the northern corner of Third and Main in Prineville. At the entrance to the main lobby was a garden courtyard that included a fountain with garden plants and shrubs. The lobby floor was similar to the Imperial Hotel in Portland and the dining room had polished oak floors and the room was finished in white enamel.

A unique feature of the new hotel was indoor plumbing for each room that included showers or tubs and a toilet and sink. There were 64 rooms located on the second floor and every room was an outside room with a window view. Each room was also heated by steam heat. An interesting claim by the contractor was that the building was nearly fireproof and that no building outside of Portland offered such protection against fire for its patrons. The hotel also featured a ladies parlor and a men’s writing room. The dining room and banquet hall could accommodate 200 people. Mrs. C.E. McDowell was the first manager of the new hotel. It was proclaimed one of the grandest hotels in Oregon.

The building stood for many years as a symbol of elegance in downtown Prineville. Ironically the “fire proof” building had a fire start in the kitchen grease ventilating system on August 30, 1966 and flames rapidly spread through the building. All guests and residents were evacuated, but the entire building was consumed by the fire. At the time it burned the building also contained a dozen other businesses including a drug store and the Chamber of Commerce office. The Grand Hotel of Central Oregon passed into memory.