Working with the artists has always been a favorite part of my job at McMenamins. They are amazingly creative people who dwell on a different plane than us mere mortals. I don't know if they're always excited about painting characters and scenes steeped (tainted?) in the history that bubbles up about each of the McMenamins' locations, but that's their assignment (most of the time) during work hours. And if their enthusiasm is lacking, it sure doesn't show on their canvases. I'm constantly blown away by how they create stunning works of art from the grainy, old photos and scraps of historical information given them.
Recently, one of the artists, Jenny Joyce, had the seemingly unenviable task of painting a portrait for the Edgefield lodging room named for Pat Sullivan, a one-time patient there when it was the county poor farm. We named the room for Pat after coming across the news story that upon his death in the 1920s, and following his four-year residency at Edgefield on the county tab, it was discovered that the old Irishman had previously stashed more than $10,000 in a Seattle bank account. That's more than $134,000 in today's inflated values. A good story, right?
Well, kind of, Jenny said. But not much for a painter to work with. No known photo of Sullivan exists and virtually no other details about the man had thus far come to light. Jenny's always up for a challenge, but this seemed unfair, so I said I would dig around for any other material about Pat Sullivan. Turns out the hunt revealed a bigger, remarkable story that makes another really fun McMenamins' connection.
There was in fact an Irishman named Pat Sullivan, a gambler who had won and lost fortunes during the Klondike Gold Rush. He drifted down to Seattle around 1900, along with numerous other winners and losers of the Klondike, including a real larger-than-life character named Tex Rickard. Tex had become wealthy and famous for his Klondike gambling and drinking resort called The Northern, and would later became one of the great boxing promoters of the early 20th century and in the '20s would build the ultra modern (for that time) Madison Square Garden in NYC.
In the Emerald City's red light district, Tex and Pat Sullivan set up a new gambling-drinking establishment, called The Western. Again, fortunes were made, and no doubt Mr. Sullivan made enough money that he could well-afford to stash several thousand dollars away for later times. He stayed around Seattle for a while longer, before moving to Portland. Tex, though, got restless, and decided to wander to a new gold rush boom town in Nevada: Goldfield.
By 1905, Goldfield was practically belching gold, and Tex opened yet another landmark gambling saloon there that he christened The Northern, and which immediately began making him money hand over fist. The Blazier brothers from Portland wanted in on that action. The Blaziers, who likely had met Tex during his Seattle days, had their own version of The Northern in the Rose City that had been filling their pockets with gold for several years. In Goldfield, the Blaziers and Tex partnered up and added a second gambling hall, called Blaziers. Though short lived, the Blazier-Rickard union was very lucrative.
Fast forward now a few years to when the the Bagdad Theater opened in Portland in 1927. Part of the original construction of the theater building was a second-story professional office space that looked out over Hawthorne Boulevard. The first occupant of the upper story office was Dr. J. H. Powell, a young dentist. Powell had recently married the younger sister of the Blazier brothers, and would keep his dental practice at the Bagdad for decades.
So, in the end, Jenny got some more interesting details for her painting about a little-known man who lived at Edgefield, and we learned about a great connection between the Bagdad's longtime dentist and one of the greatest sportsmen of the last century! Pretty cool.