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Historic Old Town hotel set to be demolished

The historic Yamaguchi Hotel dates back centuries and was a staple for the Japanese-American community. It's been vacant for years and was deemed unsafe by the city.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A historic hotel in Old Town that was a landmark for the Japanese-American community in Portland is set to be demolished. 

The Yamaguchi Hotel was built in the late 1800s in what was known as "Japantown". It was owned and operated by Japanese-American immigrants. The Yamaguchi family managed the hotel in the upper floors from 1921-1941. 

Chisao Hata is the creative director of the Living Arts program at the Japanese American Museum of Oregon.

"These are buildings that for me, as an artist, hold stories. They hold our memories, they hold history," Hata said.

Credit: KGW
Chisao Hata, creative director of the Living Arts program at the Japanese American Museum of Oregon.

The homeless outreach nonprofit Blanchet House has owned the building since 1958. It wasn't until 2012 that they moved meal service and shelter beds to a new building next door. 

The hotel itself has been vacant for 11 years and was deemed unsafe by the city because of falling bricks. A fence was put up around the building for safety.  Blanchet House said it doesn't have the millions of dollars to restore the building and bring it to code.

Credit: Bryant Clerkley
Origami cranes placed on fence around the hotel during a ceremony Sunday to honor the building

Hata said it's very unfortunate the hotel has to be demolished.

"The buildings are basically neglected and it's hard to understand why there can't be pride in whatever you have possession of but demolition by neglect is something that has really been happening in this area by a long time," Hata said.

There's no word on the exact date when the building will be demolished.  

"As many as a few years ago, the building was not in the shape it is today," said Executive Director of Restore Oregon Nicole Possert. "Saying that they don't have money, it could have been prevented if we all worked together sooner."

Blanchet House came to an agreement with the Japanese American Museum of Oregon to preserve some parts of the building. Once it's demolished, Blanchet House hopes to create a health clinic and shelter for women. 

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