The historic Yamaguchi Hotel, located at the corner of NW 4th and Glisan and currently owned by Blanchet House, is set to be demolished. We knew the building was going to be demolished, but we were only informed recently that it is going to happen soon. After learning this, on March 12, community members joined in tribute to the building and placed origami cranes around the fenced off site.  

The structure was allowed to deteriorate over time and represents an unfortunate case of demolition by neglect.  The Japanese American Museum of Oregon, the Architectural Heritage Center, and Restore Oregon advocated for its preservation but ultimately were unable to prevent its destruction. A positive result of these efforts was effecting an important change in the City’s demolition code, one that was used to justify demolition of the Yamaguchi Hotel, but will hopefully prevent future demolitions of historic sites in Portland.  

Located in the small, 10-block New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District, the Yamaguchi Hotel is significant to cultural history, women’s history, and medical/social services history of Portland and the American West. The building’s exact construction date is uncertain, but could date to the 1890s or early 1900s. It is one of the last remaining buildings in the district that housed a business that was operated by Japanese Americans prior to World War II. From 1921-41, the Yamaguchi family managed the hotel in the upper floors of the building. Masae Yamaguchi also served as a midwife, an important role for an immigrant community that had difficulty accessing health care elsewhere.  

It’s also notable that the New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District is Portland’s only National Register district designated primarily for the importance of its cultural history, which includes Nihonmachi (Japantown) and the Japanese Americans who once resided here, among other ethnic communities. The Yamaguchi Hotel is the last original structure left on this block that sits at the northernmost end of the district and once served as a gateway for new immigrant arrivals to Portland.   

The ongoing physical loss of sites in the New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District is distressing and irreversible, but renders all the more important projects like the one we are working on with the Japanese American Museum of Oregon to document lost and extant historic sites associated with the Japanese community.  

Photo (left) by Laura Lo Forti.