Three words: Obama stayed here. The Benson was built in 1912, the same year the hotel that became the Ace checked in its first guests. But the two could hardly be more different in scale, scope, and style. The Benson is Portland’s premier “old” hotel; it’s called “The Residence of the Presidents” because every president from William Taft on has stayed here (George W. being the lone exception). The Benson has some features typical of an older hotel, primarily slightly smaller rooms and bathrooms, but it has also kept up with the times without sacrificing tradition. The lobby is Portland’s loveliest, paneled with (now extinct) Circassian walnut from Siberia, with a cozy fireplace area and a Palm Court that hosts a very popular happy hour. The rooms are quiet, both in terms of noise and decor, which can be a relief after all the busy patterns and furniture types in some of Portland’s boutique hotels. The beds have quality TempurPedic mattresses, the service is great, and so is the heart-of-downtown location. El Gaucho, the restaurant attached to the Benson, is one of Portland’s top steakhouses. (Simon Benson, the timber baron who built the hotel, was the same man who gave Portland the “Benson Bubblers”—those wonderful brass drinking fountains you see all over downtown.)