Under New Management
How did a famous botanic garden become the front yard of a boutique hotel?
By Adam Regn Arvidson
From the grassy field just above the Axis Fountain, where
the Oregon Way begins its zigzag path down the hill toward the Bosque, there is
an extraordinary view of the Willamette Valley. Oregon is an epicenter of the
nursery trade, which has deep roots in this rich valley and which constitutes
the largest agricultural industry in the state. Nurserymen, turf growers,
flower hybridizers, and orchardists have painted the land with their growing
things, texturing it like a green quilt that covers the fertile soil and fades
away into the rumpled edge of the Coast Ranges.
The extraordinary view is what Moonstone Hotel Properties is
counting on. This grassy field will soon be home to a 103-room hotel,
restaurant, and bridal suite. Moonstone is here because the Oregon Garden, 240
acres of themed horticultural, agricultural, and sylvicultural displays
sprawling on the hillside below, could not pay its bills.
The story of the Oregon Garden goes back to the nursery
industry, then traipses through more than a decade of fund-raising, master
planning, design, and construction, followed by low attendance, financial
difficulty, and finally, in 2005, the entrance of Moonstone. It begins as far
back as the 1940s, when the Oregon Association of Nurserymen first decided
that, as the representative of one of the leading industries in the state (and
the largest agricultural industry), it wanted a world-class facility to
showcase its diversity. It started rolling in earnest in 1993 when the
association formed a task force to formulate goals and create a conceptual
plan. In 1994, the Oregon Garden Foundation (OGF) was formed, and in March 1995
a site was selected: Silverton, Oregon, a historic town with a population of
about 7,500 approximately 50 miles southeast of Portland. Silverton was
selected primarily because of a unique partnership opportunity.
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