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~ Kathy M.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

History of The Shaniko Hotel in Shaniko, Oregon:

A couple of weeks ago, Cary and I stopped at the quaint little ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon.  Shaniko is located on HWY 97, about 30 miles north of Madras.  This is post #3 of Oregon Gift's Shaniko series, and it concentrates on the historic brick Shaniko Hotel.

Quite a busy town in its heyday, Shaniko was a destination point for those involved in the sheep and wool industry.  There was a large warehouse for wool, and a railroad station to ship it for processing.  The hotels were full, and the local businesses were prospering.

As the years passed, things changed.  The railroad was moved from Shaniko and relocated miles away to run along the Deschutes River.  People left the area, and the town settled into a smaller version of its former glory. 

 Source:  Shaniko People by Helen Guyton Rees

In the early days of Shaniko, there were three hotels and thirteen saloons.  The brick Columbia Southern Hotel came first, built in 1901.  In 1902, the Shaniko Hotel was first located upstairs within The Palace Saloon and was run by Bill and Daisy Bell Reinhart.  In 1903, The Shaniko Hotel was built of lumber around the corner, and was later operated by the James McHargue family.  That hotel burned down in 1911 along with most of the town, and it was never rebuilt.  The third hotel was the Eagle Hotel, a Chinese owned hotel and rooming house.  It was located across from the Columbia Southern.

  Source:  Shaniko People by Helen Guyton Rees

The current Shaniko Hotel has a long and varied history of use.  It first began as the Columbia Southern Hotel, built by the railroad of the same name, after the town of Cross Hollow was relocated and renamed Shaniko.  Built of hand-made bricks with walls 18" thick, it was made to last and, if my math is right, it is 111-years-old.  In the early 1950's, the Columbia Southern Hotel received a name change and is now known as the Shaniko Hotel.

In 1921, a man named John McLennan bought the Columbia Southern Hotel.  Others ran the hotel for him over the next 25 years, including his brother, Duncan McLennan.  After John died (sometime around 1940), Duncan continued to operate the hotel.  Duncan was known as a generous and kind man, and brought in older ranchers to live in the hotel with him.

 Source:  Shaniko People by Helen Guyton Rees

The Shaniko Hotel was bought in 1955 by Joe and Sue Morelli, who turned it into an adult group home.  They lived there with their two daughters, Mary Sue and Bonny Jo.  A family style dinner was offered daily to tourists, as well as for the group home residents.  A nurse, Mrs. Morelli ran the home from 1955 to 1977.

 Source:  Shaniko People by Helen Guyton Rees

One of the group home residents was quite an industrious gun-slinging character.  Named "Cop Henry", he would lock tourists up in the jail and then charge them $2.00 to get out.  If they refused to pay or were broke, he would just leave them there to be eventually found by somebody who would let them out for free.  Having his own rules about wearing guns, Cop Henry wore only one gun on Sundays, but two during the rest of the week.

After the group home was closed down in 1977, the Shaniko Hotel was auctioned off along with most of the remaining town.  That is when nearly everybody else who had been living in Shaniko finally left.  The hotel was nearly torn down at that time, to be sold for the bricks.  The inside was sorely in need of updating, which was going to be very, very expensive.

In 1985,  Jean and Dorothy Farrell stepped up to the plate.  They bought the Shaniko Hotel, invested their retirement funds and worked for three hard years before it was reopened.  Not expecting to ever make their money back, The Farrell's loved the place and were just happy with keeping it open to the public.

Source:  Ruralite/Dana Martin

The Farrell's hired Cherry Brown to help them operate the hotel in 1988.  Cherry stayed there for years, even after The Farrell's sold the Shaniko Hotel in July 2000 to Robert Pamplin, Jr.   

Robert Pamplin, Jr., a businessman from Portland, bought and updated the Shaniko Hotel.  He opened a cafe in the hotel, and set up an R.V. Park.  He put a lot of time and money into his projects, and then ran into resistance from the locals.  It was rumored that he wanted to build a subdivision in town, and there was also some upset about the town's water supply.  Pamplin finally threw up his hands in frustration and closed down everything that he owned and moved away.  

The hotel and cafe are  currently empty, and have been for sale since 2008.   THIS LINK shows some more photos, and gives a contact number, if you want to take a look or find out how to buy it.


Here is a video of what the Shaniko Hotel looked like in 2007 when it was still in operation:

Thank you for visiting!  I hope that you have enjoyed this little history lesson.  For my other posts about Shaniko, please click on these links: 

#1 - Shaniko, Oregon: A Bit of Ghost Town History

#2 - Shaniko, Oregon: The Shaniko Car Museum, Reed Mission or "The Barn"

~ Kathy M.

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Helen said...

Too close to home not to visit!!!!! Thanks for whetting my appetite .. I love old ghost towns.

KathyB. said...

This is so interesting. Even though I am from Oregon, and have traveled through-out the state many times, I have never heard of this town. I will make sure to look for it on our next trip south.

Deb Gould said...

I love it. The first thing that caught my eye (other than the beautiful brick building) was the board sidewalks (how on earth do you shovel a board sidewalk? Or do you just push it off?)! I'd visit there in a minute, believe me!

Rick Hamell said...

Shaniko and Cross Hollows were always two different towns. The confusion comes from the fact that Shaniko is a corruption of August Scherneckau, the founder of Cross Hollow, name. By the time Shaniko was built, Cross Hollows was pretty much abandoned. Some of the buildings were used by people living in Shaniko because the town grew so fast though.

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