For those looking to add a little moody mystery to their Portland bar crawls in the new decade, consider winding your way through the Loyal Legion restaurant and descending an unmarked staircase to Voysey. The 1,400-square-foot speakeasy, which opened in late fall 2019, is sequestered underground in the basement of a historic East Side building that long ago served as the meeting spot for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Its name is an homage to British architect and textile designer Charles Francis Annesley Voysey—the building is a replica of one of his creations in London.
At the back of Loyal Legion is a furtive-looking, concrete-walled nook awash in red light. There’s no sign. Only a staircase that leads downward. “The point of the entry was to give a sense of something clandestine,” says Kelly Ogden-Gregg, principal and design lead at Portland-based firm Elk Collective, which created Voysey’s interior design. “You’re looking down these stairs and it doesn’t look like there’s anything in there, but you want to keep going.”
In the stairwell, Give Light, a red neon art installation featuring a candlestick and a hand, was inspired by drawings found in a letter Voysey sent to his grandchildren. At the bottom, concrete walls covered in murals from artist Mercedes Tabish lead into the dark bar, with its burgundy walls, a mix of antique furniture, and saturated floral fabrics and wallcoverings that evoke an Art Deco style. The space is awash in red and pink light. “It’s a post-modern take on a speakeasy from a feminine perspective,” Ogden-Gregg says. “People should feel as if they’ve entered a different time period…a surreal version of reality.”
Original columns punctuate the space and exist as an anchor for glass display cases, one of which features a Cabinet of Curiosities filled with trinkets and other objet, including an original Odd Fellows ceremony mask. A skylight that looks up into a shaft behind the building, another original element that was uncovered during renovation, accents the ceiling in a plant-filled conservatory corner, where undulating mosaic tiles color the walls.
Voysey’s bar is the star of the show, clad in stacked pink and clear glass mirrored tile and topped with burgundy terrazzo. The dramatic lighting scheme behind the bar—strips that lend a linear pattern—is another nod to Art Deco. Here’s to a 1920s-era pit stop in 2020.