Monday, February 19, 2007

R.I.P.: The Rose and Raindrop


The building that housed the Rose and Raindrop is long on history, and another chapter in that book was ended a few weeks ago when the bar closed its doors. In 2006 I had the opportunity to sit with the owner of the Rose and Raindrop, Tom Field, to discuss his bar for my new book. The following came from that discussion:

When first constructed in 1890 in what was then not officially Portland but the city of East Portland, it was the largest brick structure in either city. Over the years the building played host to a vaudeville theater, a nickelodeon, and a movie house in its lower floors. The upper floors had 36 rooms available for sleeping (and not much else). Under the building, there are a series of the famous old “shanghai” tunnels connecting the Rose and Raindrop to other old buildings in the immediate vicinity. But perhaps the most intriguing fact in the history of this building comes from the two large brick ovens that sit today in the building’s sealed basement. With large rusted-metal doors, the ovens stand in testimony to the crematorium that once operated in the building. The ovens were of course used to cremate the corpses.

At some point in its history, starting probably in the 1940’s, business in the lower floor exited the building and became nothing more than storage space for old junk accumulated from the various hardware stores along Grand Ave.

The day before the famous Columbus Day storm in October 1962, two brothers sharing the last name of Burns purchased the building. These brothers are likely familiar to many in Portland, known better for their Burns Bros. truck stops. The next day when the storm hit, the entire roof the building was blown away. The brothers spent many years reconstructing the building according to its old 19th century style. They added a brand new upper floor in 1977, remodeling the 36 sleeping rooms into 12 apartments. On the lower floor the junk was cleared-out and in the space was constructed a new restaurant and bar called Digger O’Dells, the first eating establishment in the building.

Come 1998, another famous brew man in Portland by the name of Don Younger (current owner of the Horse Brass, who I also interviewed for this book and will be expanded upon in a future Barfly article), along with Mel Hickman, took ownership of the bar and changed the name to the Rose and Raindrop – a name taken from the a combination of the city’s alter-name, the City of Roses, and the fact that Portland is known for its rain. The bar was later purchased by Tom Field and operated until 2006.

And as of this writing, rumor has it the rent was upped, and the R&R could not contend… so who had the cash to meet the ante? U.S. Bank, of course…


You can check out a preview of the first 15 pages of my book here. In the coming weeks (provided people want to read it) I will have more material about the drinking history of Portland and the bars that contribute to that history today. In the meantime, give this lowly author your thoughts on his book, the topic, or just the general state of drinking and book-writing in Portland. Until then...

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2 comments:

ldchristopher said...

I liked the posting you presented. I also had a chance to explore the Rose and Raindrop as part of a paranormal investigation. There are several similarities to the shanghai tunnels but to say it was part of that maze may be a stretch. It was certainly built as part of teh flood abatement that became the tunnels. Also, the furnace that you reference is a boiler. The original crematory furnaces were taken out many years ago. The boiler may sit where one of the furnaces was at one time. We also felt that there was at least a second furnace in the right basement (facing the front of the building) due to the charing and melted brick. In the left basement there was probably a connection to the tunnels that still exists. It is sealed with blocks of cement. It is unfortunate that earthquake proofing has taken away most of the physical evidence of the crematory and the tunnels. I have some images of the boiler, possible tunnel connection, and the second possible furnace if you would like to see them.

Distilled Publishing said...

Yes I would like to see those images. Unfortunately I was not able to view what is actually below the R&R for myself, so my information came strictly from that interview. I didnt include any of that information into the book, mainly because I have always been skeptical myself about the terming of those tunnels as "shanghai" tunnels, I know there has been research and stories done on it, but many of the people I ran across while working on the book gave me the impression it was more sensationalism than anything else. How long ago were you at the R&R? And what did your investigation find?