Posted on December 16, 2019
2. White Eagle Saloon
Inside the White Eagle Saloon in Portland, Oregon 1910
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Haunted History of the White Eagle Saloon
One of the most popular Portlander spots near the beautiful Willamette river is the McMenamins White Eagle Saloon and Hotel. Located at 836 N Russell St, Portland, Oregon it sits amongst the hustle and bustle of the city. The two-story building, dating back to 1905, became a local hangout for people from all walks of life. Judging by the exterior of the White Eagle Saloon it is clear to see why people love the place. Its architecture is inviting but also mysterious– as if there is a ghostly aura around the building. With the reported hauntings, It’s no wonder that the White Eagle Saloon draws locals and tourists alike. In almost one-hundred years the Saloon has kept its original purpose along with becoming a cafe and hotel. Originally named the B. Soboleski & Company Saloon, the building’s use involved primarily housing industrial supplies. Two polish immigrants, William Hryszko and Barney Soboleski opened the saloon together after an economic boom in Portland. They decided to name the saloon after a white eagle which is found on the Polish flag. Eventually, William Hryszko’s brother Joseph took over as the head bartender of the saloon and moved into one of the upstairs rooms. The White Eagle Saloon, along with the eleven other saloons in the area, were incredibly popular among sailors and the industrial workers of Portland. Early on into the saloon’s success, the owners realized they would need to continuously advertise in order to draw in more customers. One way they accomplished this was by handing out lunches for free. Most of the saloons in the area utilized this method to gain more customers. The cities disabled and poor also benefited from the free lunches. Unfortunately, the city banned the practice in 1913.
Outside the White Eagle Saloon
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
The White Eagle Saloon remained popular with Portland’s immigrant population. Many preferring the White Eagle Saloon to other watering holes in the area. The local City Council took notice of the growing popularity of Saloons and warned that they were places for unsavory people. Despite the City Council’s warning many people continued to frequent their local Saloons. The White Eagle Saloon, while it did very well for itself, did run into competition along the way. Rumors started to fly that because of the competition the White Eagle started gambling and prostitution rings to keep its doors open. Barney Soboleski eventually sold his side of the business in 1914, which only fueled the rumors further. The Hryszko brothers, who were now the sole owners of the saloon, changed the building after Soboleski left. They added an upstairs area and extended the rear end of the saloon to the back edge of the property. Many people believed that this expansion happened specifically because they needed to make more room for their illegal activities. Prohibition, reinstated in 1915, caused the Hryszko Brothers to rethink their business practices. Publicly they denied having anything to do with illicit activities but continued to host a variety of illegal activities at the saloon. More rumors circulated that the Hryszko brothers installed a large vault door in the basement. The tunnel helped to transport illegal alcohol from the Shanghai tunnels to White Eagle customers. After prohibition, sailors became the most frequent patrons of the White Eagle Saloon. The sailors brought shipments of alcohol to the saloon and would then have a couple of drinks themselves before returning to the docks. Sailors and dock workers, as the rumors go, would also stay in the upstairs rooms of the White Eagle Saloon. Oftentimes, they would hire “working girls” to stay the night with them and play poker in the downstairs gambling area. Some of the darker rumors were about men being “Shanghaied” from the saloon through the underground tunnels and back to the docks. Often, captains had a hard time keeping sailors on their ships. Working on a boat was very hard labor and many sailors would run off as soon as the ship hit the dock. Because of this ship captains often resorted to hiring thugs to drug unsuspecting White Eagle customers. After the man was drugged he would be taken down the tunnels and to a ship where he would be forced to work. Although, there is no concrete evidence that this occurred at the White Eagle Saloon the rumors say otherwise.
After prohibition ended, everything calmed down for the Hryszko brothers and they once again renamed the building. This time they called it the “Hryszko Brothers Restaurant and Beer Parlor” and branched out into the culinary business. Just before World War II, Robert Hryszko’s son William became the acting manager of the saloon. William changed the name to the Blue Eagle Cafe during the war, which helped to bring in business from the workers in the shipyard. Right around 1949, the saloon’s name changed again to the White Eagle Cafe and Saloon. In the 1960s, the White Eagle became a hang out for rowdy types and people with poor reputations. After William passed away, the second generation of Hryszkos met a New York immigrant Tony Ferrone. Ferrone became interested in purchasing the business at a time when the Hryszko’s wanted to sell. Ferrone immediately overhauled the whole building and renovated the space for live music. It became a “hip” spot for people to have a couple of drinks and listen to good music. Soon the saloon had its good reputation back. In the late 1970s, the White Eagle was purchased for an undisclosed amount by Charles Hughes. Hughes made it his mission to make the White Eagle the most reputable establishment in Portland. He began asking bikers to remove their vests before entering the building, as well as remove any weapons they may be carrying. This helped to make all of his patrons feel more comfortable and it was actually well received by the bikers. The White Eagle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The McMenamins brothers purchased the saloon in 1998. This was another historic building in a long line of historic buildings that the McMenamins brothers have saved.
The Ghosts of the White Eagle Saloon
Like the dark rumors about the White Eagle’s shady past, there are rumors that something otherworldly is taking place around the saloon. Today, reports of supernatural activity are growing with every customer that walks through the White Eagle’s doors. According to an urban legend, a woman named Rose worked at the saloon for many years. She was one of the many “working girls” who frequented the saloon. As the legend goes, she fell in love with a sailor. The sailor loved her back but he was married. The sailor left on a long voyage and when he came back he found out that Rose had been murdered. Today, it is thought that Rose haunts the upstairs rooms of the White Eagle Saloon. Many people report hearing a woman weeping, almost as if she is crying out for her long lost lover. Other rooms in the saloon are also reportedly haunted. Staff members often report strange noises coming from the basement. One employee reported feeling like eyes were watching him as he descended the stairs. Many people think it is the ghost of a bouncer who was shanghaied before prohibition ended. Another scary incident involved a waitress who was carrying out a customer’s order. As she went to place it on the table the plates flew out of her hand by themselves. Although there are some aggressive ghosts, there are many ghosts at the White Eagle Saloon who mean people no harm. One such ghost is named Sam, Sam enjoys playing tricks on patrons and staff members alike. Often he will back up the toilets in the downstairs bathroom, even when the saloon is closed for business! Sam, as the stories go, was a long time patron and friend of the Gryszko family. He worked at the saloon and rented a room on the premises. He was so well-liked that he even had his picture placed above the bar. Another ghost, who goes unnamed, likes to tug on guests’ shirts and staff member’s aprons. One staff member reported feeling completely at ease with the ghost, even though its behavior could be “annoying” at times! The White Eagle Saloon is full of history and supernatural activity. It is a place for history buffs and paranormal enthusiasts alike!