The Bowman Hotel, located at the corner of South Main Street and Southwest Frazer Avenue in Pendleton, officially closed its doors to overnight guests Oct. 1, 1980. In operation continuously since 1906, it was the last of Pendleton’s iconic downtown hotels to cease operations; the Temple Hotel, owned by Jim Whitney, Fancho Stubblefield and Gerald Whitney, also had closed earlier that year.
In a Sept. 1, 1980, article in the East Oregonian, Bowman owner Bert Arndt cited major improvements to plumbing, wiring, heating and cooling, insulation and windows costing as much as $1 million as the reason to shut down the hotel. He said the building’s 17 permanent residents, and two businesses fronting on Southwest First Street on the first floor of the building (The Happy Apple and VerBaere Studios), would be allowed to stay while a taxi cab business, Western Union and others would be asked to relocate.
Plans for the second and third floors of the 74-year-old facility, Arndt said, were still up in the air but possibly included “other forms of residential alternatives as well as commercial uses.” Arndt had already applied to the federal government to list the Bowman Hotel on the Federal Register of Historic Places.
EO staff writer Julie Ahrens spent the night at the Bowman on its final night, and described the room in less-than-glowing terms: “Seventy years worth of paint peel from the walls, a musty odor lingers in the air and bedding, and a bare, very bright light bulb hangs from the high ceiling. ... A bathroom and shower are down the hall. For these accommodations, I pay $6.50.” She noted, though, that while the hotel had seen better days, the extensive woodwork, ornate hardware and balconies helped the building retain some of its historic charm.
Built in the days when most travelers arrived in Pendleton by train, Pendleton’s hotels also included the Oak, Oregon, Packard, Pendleton Spokane and St. Elmo, and allowed visitors in town for business or pleasure easy access to Pendleton’s downtown business core. Recent renovations of the Temple Hotel, now St. George Plaza, and the Bowman Building to house upscale apartments, businesses and more are giving these historic buildings new life.