Crown Point Chalet
The Crown Point Chalet, which overlooked Crown Point, opened in 1915, two years before the Vista House was built and a year before the Columbia River Highway opened.
Mrs. M.E. (Margaret) Henderson had established her abilities to satisfy the palettes of the rich and famous before the Columbia River Highway was built, while working at the Chanticleer Inn in 1912. Sam Hill, who is credited with designing the Columbia River Highway, decided more people should experience the ambiance of the Chanticleer Inn and he campaigned for a new highway to bring those people to Chanticleer. Mrs. Henderson, or Bidy, as she was called, opened her first eating establishment, the Latourell Falls Chalet in 1914, but it was lost to a fire three months after it opened. Not one to give up, Mrs. Henderson set out almost immediately to build again. Bidy enlisted the help of many of Portland’s prominent businessmen, who bought $20 dinner books.
This time, she chose a spot overlooking picturesque Crown Point and christened the new establishment The Crown Point Chalet.
Opening the Crown Point Chalet on May 15, 1915, Mrs. Henderson quickly affirmed her ability to attract the rich and famous. Dignitaries far and wide would make their way to the Crown Point Chalet to experience Mrs. Henderson’s legendary hospitality and country-fried chicken served in the ambiance of a mountain chalet.
Mrs. Henderson began her career working for Portland’s Meier & Frank Department Store as a waitress and window designer, and she used her skills in interior decorating to design and furnish her eating establishments.
The guest books of the Crown Point Chalet have survived and they contain over 73,000 entries of satisfied patrons. Among them were Henry Kaiser, Frank Woolworth, Mrs. Marshall Field, Eddie Rickenbacker, Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr., Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, Henry Ford, Jack Pickford and Harold Lloyd.
In December, the first winter it was open, the roof blew off and it was quickly replaced. Failing health caused Mrs. Henderson to sell the Chalet in 1927. Moving to Portland, Mrs. Henderson opened a modest Third Floor Dining Room on Alder Street. She died at the age of 58 in 1930 after battling a chronic kidney infection. Eventually, the long-vacant, deteriorated building was demolished in the 1950s.
Mark Moore, Crown Point Chalet, PdxHistory.com
The Crown Point Chalet, owned and operated by Mrs. Margaret E. Henderson, was located on the ridge above the Vista House. This facility, with its famous ‘decor, provided jobs for many Columbian High School students. The waitresses earned a dollar a day plus tips. They boarded at the Chalet six days per week, staying in dormitory rooms, with one day off to visit home. The workday commenced at 10:00 a.m. and concluded at midnight. The restaurant featured indoor and outdoor dining areas, a fine hardwood dance floor and Mrs. Henderson’s renowned hospitality and chicken dinners. The unique dance floor, with its beautiful, smooth surface, was made of oak flooring laid edge to edge. … In 1928, Mrs. Henderson suffered a broken hip in a fall, and sold the Chalet soon thereafter. In 1947, the Chalet, vacant for some time and subject to vandalism, was demolished by a subsequent owner.
Crown Point Chalet drew rich, famous By CRAIG WALKER, Correspondent, The Oregonian
CORBETT – It was a grand dining hall, poised above Crova1 Point and the Columbia River, and the guest books still bear the signatures of such notables as Charlie Chaplin, B.F. Goodrich and F.W Woolworth.
For the 15 years follow its opening in fall of 1915, the Crown Point Chalet served elegant chicken dinners to many of Portland’s leading citizens.
The chalet is gone now, and the breathtaking site, just a few hundred yards uphill from Vista House is vacant. A visit to the site may yield only a piece or two of the wicker material that was used in the furniture at the chalet – furniture enough to accommodate nearly 150 diners.
But memories of the chalet can be recounted by at least one person who spent time there – the granddaughter of the founder.
Springfield resident Helen Nelson, 63, recently recalled some of the fame that came to rest on the Chalet when, as a child of 5 or 6, she would dance for restaurant patrons at the urging of her doting grandmother, chalet owner Margaret Elizabeth “Bydie” Henderson.
“I was just a young girl, and my grandmother wanted to show me off.”
The chalet was built to withstand the east -winds that prevail in the area, winds that used to blow hats off chalet customers, sending local children scurrying down the hillside ta recover them.
“Bydie” Henderson was co-manager of Corbett’s Chanticleer Inn in 1913. Her chicken dinners brought such fame to the Columbia River Gorge that her partner bought her out, and she built the Falls Chalet at Latourell Falls. A fire on New Year’s Day in 191S destroyed the Falls Chalet only a few months after its opening.
Not to be stopped, Mrs. Henderson sold $20 dinner books to prominent Portland businessmen as a means of financing a new, grander restaurant high atop Crown Point. The Gorge Highway was under construction, and the response was good.
There was one basic item on the menu: chicken, accompanied by potatoes, gravy, biscuits, homemade jam, cottage cheese salad and angel food cake.
No liquor was served, and the only entertainment was the occasional tinkle of a player piano or a phonograph.
The chalet saw many famous faces come and go during its 15-year history: Harold Lloyd. Eddie Rickenbacker. Barney Oldfield. Sam Hill and even several Russian princes and princesses who signed the guest books, now in the possession of Mrs. Nelson.
The Depression fell hard on “Bydie” Henderson and her chalet. Her health failed, and in 1930 she sold the chalet and opened Mrs. Henderson’s Dining Room on the third floor of the old Broadway Building at Southwest Broadway and Alder Street in Portland.
But the business was eventually assigned to an overseer and later went bankrupt. “Bydie” Henderson died penniless in April of 1930.
Oregonian, November 14, 1978: 39
CHALET OPENS JUNE 9
SEASON AT CROWN POINT DINING HALL TO START.
F. W. Gast, Formerly of St. Joe, Mich, to Manage Columbia Gorge Resort
Crown Point Chalet, on the Columbia River highway, formerly operated by Mrs. M. E. Henderson, will be opened for this season Thursday, June 9, in charge of F. W. Gast, who has come to Oregon from St. Joe, Mich., at the Invitation of Otto W. Mielke, to take charge.
Mr. Gast is a banker, who has retired from active business and with Mrs. Gast and their three sons have come to Portland to make their home. Prior to leaving for San. Francisco to asume his new duties as president of the Blake, Moffitt & Town organization, Mr. Mielke, who has owned the Crown Point Chalet property for some years, invited Mr. Gast to make a trip west. The arrangement to take over the chalet and operate it developed and the entire Gast family has arrived in Oregon as a result.
“In the banking business our contacts are largely with the public, as they will be In operating this picturesque place,” Mr. Gast said. “I am too young to retire from active life, and I am looking forward to an interesting time on the highway. Mrs. Gast and I shall try to make the Chalet everything that Mr. Mielke wants it to be.”
“Chalet Opens June 9,” Oregonian, June 05, 1932: 22