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.
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.
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+.