Simon Benson
Simon Benson was a noted businessman and philanthropist from Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...



Simon Benson was born Simon Iversen in Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, one of seven children in the Berger Iversen family. His eldest brother Jon immigrated to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1861, followed by his sister Mathea in 1865. In 1867, his parents and the rest of the family also followed - landing first in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, and then traveling to Black River Falls, Wisconsin
Black River Falls, Wisconsin
Black River Falls is a city in Jackson County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 3,622 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Jackson County. The Ho-Chunk Nation has its administrative center in Black River Falls.-History:...

, to join the oldest son and daughter. Simon Iversen was 16 when he arrived in the United States. After arriving in the United States, the family had taken out naturalization papers, changed their family name to "Benson" and proceeded to become United States citizens.

Early career

Benson first went to work as a farm hand and later worked in logging camps and sawmills. At the age of 24, he opened a general store in Lynxville, Wisconsin
Lynxville, Wisconsin
Lynxville is a village in Crawford County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 176 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Lynxville is located at ....

. It did well until it was destroyed by fire three years later. Then 27, he was completely broke and now had a wife, Esther Searles, and son Amos to care for.

Having heard about all the timber there was in the Northwest and with his experience working in the woods and sawmills of Wisconsin, he moved his family to Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

 in 1880. Simon had two more children with Esther, Alice and Caroline, before Esther died in 1891 after a long fight with tuberculosis. In 1894 Simon married Pamelia Loomis by whom he had two more children, Gilbert and Chester.

Riding through two personal cycles of prosperity and poverty before his third and lasting success, Benson went into the business of logging in near Clatskanie, Oregon
Clatskanie, Oregon
Clatskanie is a city in Columbia County, Oregon, United States. It was named for the Clatskanie River, which empties into the Columbia River within the city limits. The population was 1,528 at the 2000 census. The 2007 estimate is 1,710 residents.-History:...

 and Oak Point, Washington, downstream from Portland, buying up tracts of timber wherever he could. He introduced a number of changes to Northwest logging, including the donkey steam engine
Steam donkey
Steam donkey, or donkey engine is the common nickname for a steam-powered winch, or logging engine widely used in past logging operations, though not limited to logging...

which replaced the oxen that had previously been used to haul logs. He later built the famous Benson sea-going rafts
Benson raft
The Benson raft was a huge sea-going log raft designed to reliably transport millions of board feet of timber at one time through the open ocean. This practical transportation method was first used on the Pacific coast in 1906 by Simon Benson, a lumber baron of Portland, Oregon, in the United...

 which could carry up to six million board feet (14,000 m³) of timber, cutting the cost of transporting logs to markets in California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...


In 1898, he moved his family and his business headquarters back to Portland. The family lived in a rented house for two years until Benson decided to build a new home at the corner of SW 11th and Clay. This is the home known as the Simon Benson House
Simon Benson House
The Simon Benson House is a house located in downtown Portland, Oregon listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is currently owned by Portland State University.-See also:* Simon Benson...

. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

 in 1983, it was later saved from city condemnation and restored by the Friends of Simon Benson House and moved to the Portland State University
Portland State University
Portland State University is a public state urban university located in downtown Portland, Oregon, United States. Founded in 1946, it has the largest overall enrollment of any university in the state of Oregon, including undergraduate and graduate students. It is also the only public university in...

 (PSU) campus at SW Park and Montgomery in 2000. It houses a visitor's center and is home to the PSU Alumni Association.


Now a wealthy man, Benson's interests expanded beyond the timber industry. In 1912, he began building a fine hotel because he felt it was needed in Portland to attract tourists and more commerce to the city. It was modeled on the Blackstone Hotel
Blackstone Hotel
The Renaissance Blackstone Hotel is located on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Balbo Street in the Michigan Boulevard Historic District in the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois. This 21-story hotel was built from 1908 to 1910 and designed by Marshall and Fox. On May 29, 1998, the...

 in Chicago, a brick structure with the same type of French mansard roof. It opened in 1913 and was known as the Oregon Hotel. For sixteen months it lost money and finally Benson took over management, at which time it became known as the Benson Hotel
Benson Hotel
The Benson Hotel is a 287 room historic hotel building in downtown Portland, Oregon, United States.It is owned and operated by Coast Hotels & Resorts. It was originally known as the New Oregon Hotel, and is commonly known as "The Benson". It has a reputation as one of Portland's finest hotels...


Benson later built the Columbia Gorge Hotel
Columbia Gorge Hotel
The Columbia Gorge Hotel is a historic hotel in Hood River, Oregon, United States. It was built by Simon Benson, who was involved with the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway. Benson envisioned a hotel at the end of the highway, and completed the Mission style hotel in 1920. The new hotel was built on...

 near Hood River
Hood River, Oregon
The city of Hood River is the seat of Hood River County, Oregon, United States. It is a port on the Columbia River, and is named for the nearby Hood River. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 5,831...

 in 1921. He brought Henry Thiele, later owner of his own famous restaurants in Portland, to be its head chef. Benson was also an enthusiastic supporter of good roads and among a group of businessmen who encouraged the building of the Columbia River Highway. When citizens of Hood River County voted a $75,000 bond levy to construct the portion of the highway that would run from the Multnomah County line to Hood River, Benson purchased the entire bond issue within a month because the bonds were not selling.


Benson is also well remembered for his philanthropy. He has been quoted as having said:
Benson purchased a 400-acre (1.6 km²) tract of land in the Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Up to deep, the canyon stretches for over as the river winds westward through the Cascade Range forming the boundary between the State of Washington to the north and Oregon to the south...

, which included Wahkeena Falls and Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls
-External links:* and , from a USFS website* from the Oregon Tourism Commission* , from a Library of Congress website* * * * *...

, and deeded it to the City of Portland for a public park. Subsequently, the land was divided to become the Wahkeena Falls Recreation Area, Benson State Park, and Multnomah Falls Recreation Area. Benson also paid for the masonry footbridge across Wahkeena Falls and the reinforced concrete arch pedestrian bridge over the lower Multnomah Falls.

Simon Benson was a tee-totaler
Prohibition of alcohol, often referred to simply as prohibition, is the practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the...

 and he wanted to discourage his workers from drinking alcohol in the middle of the day. In 1912, Benson gave the City of Portland
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

 $10,000 for the installation of twenty bronze drinking fountains. These fountains, known as "Benson Bubblers", are still in use in downtown Portland. Today there are 41 Benson Fountains, forty in Portland and one in Sapporo, Japan, one of Portland’s Sister Cities. Conservationist Francis J. Murnane
Francis J. Murnane
Francis J. Murnane was a longshore worker from Portland, Oregon, United States who was called "the cultural and historical conscience of Portland" after playing a key or solitary role in preserving several historical monuments in the city...

 was instrumental in preserving the bubblers, his first successful project.

Benson was chosen to represent Oregon at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, as the state's "First Citizen."

In 1916, Benson gave the Portland School District
Portland Public Schools, Oregon
Portland Public Schools is a public school district located in Portland, Oregon, United States. It is the largest school district in the state of Oregon, and in the Pacific Northwest. It is a Pre K-12 district with an enrollment of approximately 47,000 students...

 $100,000 to help fund the building of a polytechnic school. Finished in 1918, the school was first used for the training of soldiers for World War I. It was re-opened to high school students in January 1919 and renamed Benson Polytechnic
Benson Polytechnic High School
Benson Polytechnic High School is a technical public high school in the Portland Public Schools district. Its campus is located in the center of Portland's Eastside commercial area. Students are given a special emphasis in a technical area...


In 1921, after moving to Beverly Hills, California
Beverly Hills, California
Beverly Hills is an affluent city located in Los Angeles County, California, United States. With a population of 34,109 at the 2010 census, up from 33,784 as of the 2000 census, it is home to numerous Hollywood celebrities. Beverly Hills and the neighboring city of West Hollywood are together...

, Benson deeded the city of Portland nine acres overlooking the Willamette River between North Greeley and Going Streets. The land was later dedicated as Madrona Park.

Later life

In the early 1920s, Benson moved to southern California to retire, but gradually became active in business again, buying and developing land and managing business properties. He died in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

 in August 1942. Benson is buried at River View Cemetery
River View Cemetery (Portland, Oregon)
River View Cemetery in the southwest section of Portland, Oregon, United States, is a non-profit cemetery founded in 1882. It is the final resting place of many prominent and notable citizens of Oregon, including many governors and United States Senators...

 in Portland.

Simon Benson Award

The Simon Benson Award was created in 1999 to honor the region's contemporary pioneers of philanthropy. Portland State University's Simon Benson Award, presented by Wells Fargo Bank, honors philanthropists who have made a lasting impact in the region.

Further reading

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.