In Oregon, a Little Hotel to Bring Out Your Inner Artist


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Room 8 at the Jennings Hotel, designed by Greg Hennes with vintage field desk and quilt by Zena Verda Pesta.

Credit
Greg Hennes

Rates

Nine rooms, starting at $85 with a shared bath.

Basics

Beyond promoting its status as “World’s First Kickstarter-Funded Hotel,” the Jennings is an unusual hotel. The formerly dilapidated two-story brick building has a colorful history as a boardinghouse, a tattoo parlor and, if legend is to be believed, a brothel. And it is now the ambitious passion project of Greg Hennes, an artist who first came across the property in Joseph in 2010. It took “almost four years of looking, dreaming and planning before I got my life to the place where I believed I could actually pull it off,” said Mr. Hennes, who had been based in Portland. Having raised $107,000 through crowdfunding, Mr. Hennes turned to his friends — a stable of well-known artists, architects and designers — for the hotel’s creative vision. The hotel’s first remodeled room was ready for guests in 2015. Four additional rooms are set to roll out by Memorial Day 2018.

Location

On the main street of Joseph (population: about 1,000), six hours east of Portland, the hotel is in the heart of the “Alps of Oregon,” with a view of the dramatic, pine-covered Wallowa Mountains and Joseph’s attractive, sculpture-adorned downtown.

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The communal kitchen-library at the Jennings Hotel.

Credit
Greg Hennes

The Room

Each room is the work of a single designer, including some big names like Brendon Farrell, who is responsible for the unique look of Portland’s popular Löyly Spa and the Scandinavian-inspired Room 7 at the Jennings.

Spacious, light-filled Room 2 was designed by the Portland architect Ashley Tackett with a mix of white walls, exposed brick and roughly finished light wood floors accented with area rugs and animal skins. It had an unconventional configuration, with both a queen-sized bed and a twin in the entrance alcove. The living area had a black velour couch, a desk equipped with a sturdy, marble-based lamp and a back door that opened onto the hotel’s wide porch, where there was a small bistro-style table. Idiosyncratic touches included a large format photograph of a cowgirl in a leopard print shirt, and a coffee table with secret hatches that opened to reveal two carefully selected books of poetry: “Mountain Echoes” by Jim Whilt and “American Primitive” by Mary Oliver.

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Room 7, designed by Brendon Farrell with custom furniture and mirror by the designer and a vintage rug.

Credit
Greg Hennes

The Bathroom

The shared bath area had three rooms: a changing room with a shelf of charcoal gray and white Turkish towels and heatproof, break-proof black rubber water cups, a Scandinavian-style cedar sauna with a squat wooden bucket and ladle for pouring water onto the hot stones, and a bathroom with black and white octagonal tiles and a rain shower. Sauna instructions are scrawled artfully on the bath’s sliding wooden door.

Amenities

In keeping with its unconventional style, the Jennings has no lobby. Instead, it has an airy common room with a large wooden dining table, a well-equipped communal kitchen and a library that includes Audubon guides to local foliage alongside works by Don DeLillo and Henry David Thoreau, a Ouija board and a record player. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, though it was a bit spotty during my stay.

Dining

Though the Jennings doesn’t offer room service, guests can prepare meals in the shared kitchen.

The Bottom Line

With an in-house residency for artists, a new nonprofit school for traditional crafts and cooking (called The Prairie Mountain Folk School) and renovation work underway on the remaining five rooms (even as guests occupy the existing rooms), the hotel is a work in progress — the next best thing to staying in an artist’s studio.

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