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Photo by Patrice Raplee

Portland, Oregon: Portland Oregon: From Historic Shanghaiing to Modern Shopping

A thin curl of smoke wraps around an ancient Chinese man, as he leans against a brick wall in the dim corridor smoking a clay pipe. He averts his eyes while two hulking men drag an unconscious sailor down the passageway and lock him behind an enormous wooden door. Mystery has always played an integral part of Portland, Oregon, with echoes from the past nestling in old buildings and lingering just beneath its downtown streets. Young couples, executives and visitors stroll upon these avenues unaware of the drama that played out in the distant annals of this modern city.

Of Hidden Tunnels and Shanghaied Sailors

Portland is indeed the City of Roses, as well as an artistic and music cultural Mecca. Yet, the city’s history in the late 1800s, bares evidence of secretive underground tunnels where people disappeared. Sailors and unwary patrons would visit local saloons and either drink too much or find themselves the victims of Opium knockout drops. The shanghaied men would vanish through the saloons’ trap doors (Deadfalls), be locked in a holding cell, and then put on a ship to crew for several years. This is how Portland’s underground catacombs received the moniker, Shanghai Tunnels. This infamous practice also involved women, who were sold into white slavery if they became victims of the Deadfalls.

Photo by Michael Jones Michael P. Jones, curator of the Portland Shanghai Tunnels and adjunct instructor at Portland State University, first discovered the tunnels when he was seven years-old. Jones’ indoctrination into the mysterious tunnels by an old retired captain, Frank Hammond, was a frightening and exhilarating affair. The captain led Jones downtown to a building that had a trap door with stairs located underneath. Given a tiny box of matches, Jones descended the stairs with the captain to reach a metal door. The captain opened the door and warned him to go straight and not make any turns and he would reach the waterfront. Jones recounts vividly the thrill of lighting his first match and the fear that hit when the captain closed the door. He was left to explore the tunnels with only the company of a tiny flickering light. Jones comments, “As I walked into that tunnel, my whole life changed.”

And change it did. Today, Jones heads the most comprehensive non-profit studies and tours of Portland’s infamous underground tunnels. CNN, the Discovery Channel, Rachel Ray and Anthony Bourdain of the Travel Channel have all interviewed and taken Jones’ tour. The History Channel featured the catacombs in their Cities of the Underworld series, drawing visitors from around the globe to explore the tunnels and the reputed hauntings, such as the Lady of the Fountain.

Portland’s catacombs are mesmerizing with layers of fascinating history and stories. Moreover, Jones is a remarkable historian with a wealth of knowledge that is captivating and enticing!

Shop Portland

Photo by Patrice Raplee Portland’s premiere shopping district is unquestionably N.W. 23rd Street and Nob Hill area. This boulevard of mercantile heaven offers the finest in unique apparel boutiques, jewelry, salons, home décor, linens, shoes, imports, kitchen accessories, teahouses, delectable cafes and delicatessens. Although this trendy and walkable area is a shopping mainstay for locals and visitors alike, the prices in most shops are very reasonable.

For the richest tasting and best chocolates in Portland, visit Moonstruck, located on 526 N.W. 23rd Ave. Try the scrumptious Ocumarian Ancho and chipotle Spice Blend.

If you need to relax from shopping, drink a cup of tea, use the wireless network or people-watch from a comfortable second-floor local; visit Tea Chai Té, located on 734 N.W. 23rd. This wonderful teahouse features local gourmet bakery items and a full selection of exceptional teas from around the globe.

For those who have a weakness for shoes, Talula’s shoe Salon, located on 820 N.W. 23rd, is a step-up for style and variety at great prices.

Dining Out

The Rose City is a testament to fine cuisine and offers a wide array of fare and ethnic delights. The top two restaurants on our list for fabulous culinary indulgence is The Country Cat Dinnerhouse and Bar and Plainfield’s Restaurant.

The Country Cat Dinnerhouse and Bar. Located on Stark, the Country Cat is about 15 minutes from downtown Portland but absolutely worth it! Chef Adam Sappington has created an amazing menu with farm-to-table cuisine served in a relaxed and modern lightwood environment. Try the luscious Cast Iron skillet Fried Chicken that marinades for 24 hours in salt brine and then marinades for another 24 hours in buttermilk. The menu changes seasonally and reflects a southern flare with inspired panache. The restaurant is open for brunch and dinner and is usually busy. They take reservations for four or more but arrive early to avoid waiting.

Plainfield’s Restaurant offers the finest cuisine of India in the U.S. For over 30-years the family-run, four-star restaurant has received numerous cuisine awards including best wine cellar in the U.S. Plainfield’s resides in a gorgeous historic Victorian mansion with seating located on two floors. The elegant atmosphere is perfect for a romantic dinner, business event or simply enjoying exquisite cuisine. In addition, Plainfield’s has created a new wine and dinner pairing event that has locals raving. For additional information, visit .

For breakfast and lunch, Kornblatt’s New York Style Delicatessen, located on 628 N.W. 23rd, is the quintessential authentic deli this side of New York. The mile-high corn beef and pastrami sandwiches are delicious and the desserts are equally impressive. The atmosphere is right out of a typical bustling N.Y deli and is always packed with locals and visitors. Be patient, the food is worth it.

Accommodations With Flair

Portland is a remarkably diverse conurbation and to accommodate the city’s diverse visitors, new hotels are taking the lead in offering unique lodgings.

Hotel Deluxe embodies chic. This stunning hotel portrays the themed elegance of 1930s to 1950s Hollywood. The lobby features an immense video wall that displays revolving classic film stills and the surrounding guest furniture plays homage to the best of Hollywood’s golden age. Every detail of the Deluxe, from the gilded ceilings, crystal chandeliers, black and white film star/director wall prints and gold carpets, bespeaks elegance. The hotel rooms feature fabulous design and color schemes with tall, recessed ceilings, upscale linens, crystal-block lamps, excellent city views and a pillow menu presented under glass. The bathrooms are a starlet’s dream in creamy marble and tile design with Aveda products, and the extraordinary room amenities boast luxury.

For a lovely repast, visit Gracie’s restaurant on the lobby level. Reminiscent of Hollywood’s Brown Derby, Gracie’s exemplifies the lavishness of a bygone era. The cuisine is excellent and breakfast is simply a must with the restaurant’s signature German Pancakes. In addition, the Deluxe’s Driftwood Room is a cozy enclave to enjoy the cocktail scene and be seen.

The room to obtain – the Marlene Dietrich suite with its round king bed, opulent chaise lounge and panoramic West Hills view; it’s perfect for a romantic interlude. The Hotel Deluxe is truly a fount of graciousness and service in an atmosphere of Hollywood glamour.

The Hotel Lucia, on Broadway, typifies unique contemporary décor with photographic artistry by the illustrious David Kennerly. This upscale hotel caters to guests with discriminating taste and a penchant for comfort.

The Inn at Northrup Station, located in the trendy Nob Hill area, spins the word unique upside down. Bright colors and bold design infuse this vibrant and modern inn. The eye-catching fuchsia pushpin check-in desk, Carnival Cruise Line carpets and inviting lobby with art-glass mobiles, is a prelude to the wonderful creativity and design awaiting guests.

This newly renovated boutique hotel features 70 inspired suites designed in toned-down purples, oranges and greens to create a marvelous visual palette. The suites are spacious and comfortable with pillow top beds, local artist-designed furniture and well-stocked contemporary kitchens. The majority of suites offer patios or balconies and are perfect for extended stay visits. In addition, the third-floor rooftop garden is an oasis in warm weather with live music and catered fare occurring on first Thursdays.

Families and groups love this intriguing inn, yet business travelers covet the ideal suite size and working spaces. The staff is genuinely friendly and provides great personal service without intrusion. Moreover, the inn is close to fantastic restaurants, fashionable boutiques and even provides free parking. For additional information, visit .

The Ace Hotel, located downtown is the newest in the line of green and ultra-cool hotels that unites local vintage facets with contemporary ascetics. The 79-room hotel opened in Feb. of ’07 with rave reviews and a guest list of today’s top musicians and artists. Guests who want a social and uncluttered atmosphere will appreciate this freshly creative and inspired habitat with individually designed rooms. Additionally, the Ace features the popular Clyde Common restaurant, Stumptown Coffee Roasters and an open mezzanine business center. Guaranteed, the Ace is unique and Portland-Bohemian appealing with reasonable rates.


Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) and the Recording Academy. Her photographs and articles have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger, Seattle Weekly and the Oregonian. As a freelance photojournalist, she has also worked with acclaimed musical entertainers, such as Santana, Billy Joel and Steven Tyler. Patrice has written several children’s short stories and is currently working on an adult fiction novel for publication.
Photos by Patrice Raplee and Michael Jones