Having announced in May that he would fly a plane off the roof of the Hotel Multnomah (now the Portland Embassy Suites) during Rose Festival, pioneering bird-man Silas Christofferson made it clear he would not back down. I have every confidence in myself and will make the flight promptly at 2 o’clock Tuesday afternoon just as surely as weather conditions are at all favorable (Morning Oregonian, 10-June-1912).
The 23 year old Christofferson, a native of Watsonville, California, began his aviation career in 1910 when he constructed his own plane, a monoplane. An 850 pound biplane with a Glenn Curtiss engine would be used for the Rose Festival stunt. For take off a 175 foot long, 30 foot wide platform was constructed on the roof of the 120 foot tall hotel.
As promised at 2pm on Tuesday, June 11, 1912 the pilot made history (Morning Oregonian, 12-June-1912):
Aviation science took another stride toward perfection yesterday afternoon when Silas Christofferson, the youthful Portland bird-man, successfully piloted his biplane from the top of the Multnomah Hotel building to Vancouver, Wash. He flew the eight miles, crossing the Willamette and Columbia rivers, in 12 minutes.
Other aviators have made speedier journeys, but it remained for the unlicensed ex-automobile racer to be the pioneer in trusting his heavier-than-air machine in a start from the midst of the business section of a great city.
A crowd of 50,000, scattered along half a dozen streets, lining roofs of dozens of office buildings, and perched precariously at every available point of vantage, witnessed the splendid start of the daring young aviator.
The crowd roared as the machine gracefully and surely left its board footing and soared forth on its journey to Vancouver.
Stephanie Bertrand says
I WAS SITTING IN A BOOTH AT A LOCAL RESTURANT IN ONTARIO, OREGON CALLED THE PLAZA INN WHEN I NOTICED A PICTURE OF SILAS CHRISTOFFERSON AND HIS PLANE. THE PICTUE IS DATED 1912 AND THAT HE LANDED AT THE MALHEUR COUNTY FAIR! IT IS SO FUN TO READ ABOUT HISTORICAL THINGS PEOPLE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED!
Brian Shute says
As a historical note I offer this:
My grandfather Victor L. Shute worked as a draftsman for the Christofferson Motor Company. While at work in Redwood City, California, Mr. Christofferson offered to take my grandfather up for a flight after the aircraft’s controls were tested. In solo, Christofferson went up but unfortunately the controls failed and his plane fatally crashed into the ground. My grandfather witnessed this entire episode on October 31, 1916 and was hugely upset by the event. According to my grandfather’s diary, he resigned about a month later as “Things going badly here”. My grandfather enjoyed working for Silas Christofferson and his company while Silas was alive.
Everett Cox, Jr. says
My grandfather, Robert Francis Cox, was co-owner of this plane, which flew off the Multnomah Hotel, with Clark Wilson (another Oregon Lumberman). On August 10, 1912 my father, Everett Cox, rode on the wing of this plane as it flew over and under the bridges on the Willamette river…..he was 12 years old and the first airplane passenger in the Pacific Northwest. That same day, my grandmother, Emma was the first woman passenger. See Morning Oregonian archives August 10, 1912 for the complete story and photos.
gordon gilbert says
I collect turn of the past century real photo postcards, and I just received one of this event, with Christofferson in flight off the roof, having just cleared the board runway. It was taken by a photographer from the middle roof section of the hotel, in the photo above. There is also a motion picture cameraman in the left corner of the postcard. He is on the Multnomah corner roof section next to the ramp. His camera says Oregon Motion Picture, Portland, Oregon. Also shown in the postcard is the adjacent building, the Pacific Paper Company. The photographer for the photo shown above in this article was sitting on the edge of the parapet of that building with his camera looking up at Christofferson and his biplane. The tail of the biplane says “We Use Monogram Oil”.
Alan Mitchell says
I am a 72 year old NPS volunteer in Vancouver, Washington who is helping the National Park Service build a full size replica of a Curtiss pusher style Biplane that Silas Christofferson flew off the top of the Multnomah Hotel, June 8, 1912.
We understand it was an aircraft he had modified and we are having to rely on old photos to determine how to build our replica.
I realize it has been 4 years since Everett Cox, Jr. posted here, but it appears he knows all about about Silas Christoffer’s plane.
Can you ask him to contact me ?