Simmons’ Hillvilla

On a clear day, you can see Mt. Hood, Mt St. Helens, and Mount Adams from The Chart House on Terwilliger Boulevard. The original plan for Terwilliger Boulevard called for expanding the parkway’s two hundred foot right of way to four hundred feet at Elk Point, the land under the restaurant, and using it as a public viewpoint, but the land was never acquired. Rollo Simmons acquired Elk Point, opening the Portland icon “Simmons’ Hillvilla” in 1921, and running it until his death in 1951. Simmons advertised “The View of a Million Lights.” After his death, Simmons’ family briefly ran the restaurant, closing it in 1953.  Simmons also ran “Simmons by the Falls,” first at a small stand, and then in the building now known as the Multnomah Falls Lodge, until it’s World War II closure.

Simmons' Hillvilla advertisement, Morning Oregonian, October 17, 1924.

Simmons’ Hillvilla advertisement, Morning Oregonian, October 17, 1924.


HIllvilla, ca. 1930.

Simmons’ HIllvilla, ca. 1930.


HIllvilla, ca. 1935.

Simmons’ HIllvilla, ca. 1935.


HIllvilla, ca. 1940.

Simmons’ HIllvilla, ca. 1940.


Palaske’s Hillvilla

Restaurateur Ed Palaske and real estate investor Frank Battaglia purchased the property in 1954, spent $250,000 almost completely replacing the building, and opened Easter Sunday, 1955 as Palaske’s Hillvilla.  Palaske’s improvements included a full length porch off the main level, and the Inspiration Room, it’s bar facing windows unobstructed by the presence of a bartender.  An attractive female attendant waited in the wings for the patrons’ “high sign.”  By that fall Palaske was serving ten thousand patrons a week.  Palaske added the fifty foot totem pole by master carver Lelooska in 1959.   Thinking it was time to retire at age 67, Palaske sold the restaurant in 1980.

HIllvilla, ca. 1960.

Palaske’s HIllvilla, ca. 1960.


HIllvilla, ca. 1960.

Palaske’s HIllvilla, ca. 1960.


The Chart House

In April, 1985, the restaurant chain Chart House opened at the former Hillvilla location. Initial reaction to the restaurant was tepid. Oregon was experiencing an invasion of Californians, and print references referred to the restaurant as “The California Restaurant Chain.” A restaurant reviewer mocked the cards given out at the restaurant’s entrance advertising that the dressings were made from scratch, “It is not a reassuring sign when a restaurant invites you to marvel over the fact that it does its own cooking,” and characterized patrons who paid $21.95 for frozen lobster tail as “buying balsa wood and prestige.”  The Chart House currently enjoys 3.5 stars on Yelp, 3.8 on Google+.

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7 Responses

  1. Carolyn Rust says:

    During the summer my friends and I used to walk over to the Hillvilla parking lot to watch Chief Lalooska carving the totem pole. He was a large man, and he sat on a stool beside the log to do his carving. He rarely spoke, so we figured out that we needed to just quietly watch. We never stayed very long, and I always had the feeling he was happy to see us walk away. Progress that summer seemed very slow and I remember having my doubts that he’d ever finish it, but it’s there today as interesting to see as it was fifty-some years ago. I never thought to take my old box Kodak camera along, but I recall many years ago seeing a snapshot of him sitting and carving, so perhaps someone still has it.

    Thank you for the interesting article and the wonderful old pictures.

  2. Kenneth Zeidman says:

    Great shots great memories!!

  3. Pat Peters says:

    Like Carolyn, I too have fond memories of The Hillvilla Restaurant on Terwilliger Blvd. from the late 40’s on. When my parents & I visited, it was a huge event; the view was worth the trip. Much later, I too talked with Chief Lalooska as he carved the totem pole. It did take quite awhile for him to complete. I hope that a beautiful restaurant continues to be nourished in this beautiful setting.

  4. Jim Holland says:

    Thank you for this story. I was 10 years old in 1962. My parents and I lived in Palo Alto California. I took the Southern Pacific Shasta Daylight train alone to visit my grandmother. She would take take out to eat at the Hillvilla. She lived on S.W. Hamilton and it was a quick drive to the Hillvilla.

  5. Barbara J Fazzolari says:

    I worked at the Hillvilla in 1958 first serving lunch and than becoming a cocktail waitress.

  6. Pat Peters says:

    I enjoyed what you said Jim. My mother & I used to spend summers & Christmas vacations in Palo Alto, CA. The weather was always perfect. We left PDX & much later returned via the Southern Pacific Shasta Daylight! We have also lived in Menlo Park/Palo Alto!

  7. Lois Gaither Hallock says:

    i am now 87. When I was a senior at Lewis and Clark College in 1952, a date of mine and i would go to Simmon’s Hillvilla after school dances. We arrived late and were, as I remember, the only people in the place. At that time there were two little old ladies in charge and the specialty of the house was their apple pie. There was also a parrot on the premises. As I look at this drawing, I’m thinking that I remember the restaurant being set back from the road in a woody area but maybe it was winter and dark and rainy and i’m not remembering that correctly.

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