Downtown with the Cousins

Dear Liza,

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The cupola

It is hot again here in Portland, so I made sure my Monday with Jasper and Kestrel included lots of air conditioning and water.

We took the number 4 bus downtown to the Pioneer Courthouse. This nifty building was built in 1875, and is still being used. It has a wonderfully old elevator that feels like a birdcage, and lovely steps, as well. We enjoyed both as we headed for the main attraction, the cupola!

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Cool old elevator

A cupola is a little tower with windows that sticks out the top of a building. The courthouse cupola was built because this was where customs officers could come and see what ships were in the port of Portland. In those days, this was the tallest building around, so you could see the river from here. Not anymore, I’m afraid.

But we enjoyed the old bubbly glass, the views, and knowing that we were in a special place. Looking down, we saw Pioneer Square, which is called Portland’s Living Room because of all the public events there. Once we climbed down from the cupola, we crossed the street and had snacks there while listening to bluegrass music.

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Pretty carpeted stairs

But it was getting hot. So we headed up to the Oregon Historical Society, which is air conditioned and free, since I am member. Their main exhibit was about Oregon State University (OSU, Go Beavers!) and many of the famous and influential people who graduated from there. There was information about Linus Pauling, The McMenamin brothers, people who invented whale tracking technology, the fellow who invented the computer mouse,  and much more. There was also a soft comfy couch for Grandmas.

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Tracking whales

Having filled our heads with history and science, we walked to Director’s Park, where there is a fountain designed for playing in. The kids got wet, splashed other kids, and generally had a good time. We ate a cobbled together picnic in the shade, played a big game of Connect Four until tempers started to fray,  and then we headed home.

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Kids and water

I had brought storybooks to read, and Kestrel had lots more. Jasper practiced Spanish on his Duolingo program. We made dinner, Auntie Katie came home, and Grandpa Nelson came to fetch me. I was one pooped Grandma Judy!

When it “cooled down” to 88 degrees at 9 o’clock, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. The moon was almost full and the park was beautiful, but it was still too warm to be comfortable. Tomorrow will be a quiet inside day, I think.

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Moonshine

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Astoria Column

Dear Liza,

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The Astoria Column

After Auntie Katie, the cousins and I left The Battery Russell, we were starting to think about dinner. Auntie Katie looked on her phone and saw that The Astoria Column was on a hill overlooking downtown, where the restaurants are. Why not go see the column, and then go get dinner?

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Astoria Bridge from Coxcomb Hill

We drove under the Astoria bridge, which is over four miles long, and through a thick forest on the way to the top of Coxcomb Hill. We were overlooking the Columbia River, with a view west to the Pacific Ocean and east over miles of forest.

The overcast had gone and we were in dazzling sunlight. We looked at the painting on the 125 foot column, but not for long, because as soon as we found the staircase inside, we knew we had to climb it. IMG_8206.jpg

Up and up and up, around and around…164 spiral steel steps. I just kept holding on to the railing and not looking any further than my feet.

The Astoria Column was built in 1926 with railroad and business money to commemorate Astoria’s role in the development of the northwest. It is patterned on Trajan’s Column in Rome and the Place Vendome Column in Paris. The paintings on the outside show important things that happened in Oregon history.

Finally, the top! The views were even longer, the perspective even better, the breeze even cooler, than below. It was almost overwhelmingly beautiful. We all just stood and stared, feeling light headed.

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The View from the Top

Then we remembered. Dinner! Auntie Katie and I knew we were working on borrowed time, as all of us were getting spacey and a tad cranky.  It was time to find food. We walked down, watching our feet at every step, played Animal Impersonator for a few minutes, and headed off

The GPS directed us to Mo’s, which is famous up and down the Oregon Coast for clam chowder.

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First Course

Once we had some steamer clams and crackers we all felt better, and we enjoyed watching the sun go down over the water. We filled up on hot dogs, fish and chips and Petrale sole, and were ready for the long drive back to Portland.

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The end of a lovely day

Auntie Katie drove, the kids slept, and I watched the forest get dark and thought about how grateful I am for my life.

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Battery Russell

Dear Liza,

After Auntie Katie, the cousins and I finished exploring the wreck of the Peter Iredale and brushing the sand off our feet, we headed further into the Fort Stevens area to something marked on the map as The Battery Russell.

Jasper exploring The Battery Russell

This is a series of rooms, platforms, observation stations and gun emplacements that was installed by the Army in 1890 and was used until 1910, de-activated, then re-activated in 1941 to 1945. It held two 10-inch rifles with 30 ton gun barrels, designed to defend the coast from enemy bombardment and guard against beach invasions.

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That’s the pit. Don’t fall in.
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Baby swallows in their nest!

The guns have all been removed, and what is left is a fascinating combination of stark grey concrete and swallow’s nests surrounded by wild roses and blackberry bushes. There are stairs and ramps, cavernous rooms and pits, where groups of kids (including cousins Jasper and Kestrel) can play Capture the Flag or Hide and Seek.

Kestrel enjoying a vantage point
Katie watching out

There are signs posted: This area contains pits and deep drop-offs. Watch your children! So naturally, the kids took about two minutes to figure out where the pit was, then ran around like kids do.

When the other kids left, the cousins made up other adventure games. Auntie Katie’s role was a villain who had captured Kestrel, but Kestrel had more energy and kept escaping our dungeon. Eventually Auntie Katie and I (her loyal minion) rounded up the captive and her friend (Jasper0 and hauled them off to the next adventure.

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Laurelhurst Neighborhood

Dear Liza,

Today, while Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett were working, I went for a walk around the Laurelhurst neighborhood. It is just next to our Kerns neighborhood and very shady and pretty.

There is Laurelhurst Park, which I have told you about, 31 acres of maple, fir, oak and elm trees with places for kids to play and dogs to run, as well as a small lake for ducks and turtles, picnic tables and toys to climb on. The Park was built in 1909,  and the trees were planted then, because this land had been a farm. So these giant trees are “only” one hundred years old.  The Park was made by a landscape architect named Emanuel Mische. The hills and valleys of the land helped him make it feel like a forest and not just flat land with trees. It is my favorite place in Portland.

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Lovely old tree in Laurelhurst Park

 

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Sunlight through leaves

Back when the park was new, boys and girls played very different games from each other and didn’t play together as much as you do now. The south side of the play area was “for boys”, and the north side was “for girls”. I will have to do some more reading and learn what games they played. Now, everyone plays together, however they like.

While the park was being planted, houses were being built on land that had been William Ladd’s Hazelfern Farm. Mr. Ladd had been a mayor of Portland, and when he died, his family sold the land to the Laurelhurst Company to develop a neighborhood. It was built right along the streetcar lines, so it was easy to get to from Downtown Portland. This was before many people had cars, so they rode horses, walked, or took streetcars to get around.

Before the building started, the Laurelhurst Company put up sandstone arches at the entrances to the neighborhood. These made the place feel very special, even when it was just hills and dirt.

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The houses people built were very different from the house you have in Salinas. There are Bungalow Style, Spanish Revival, a very pretty style called Fairy Tale, and many others. Some houses are a combination of styles, so it is hard to give them all names. Sort of like if one of your Little Ponies had a crown on her head, butterfly wings, and strawberries on her bottom!

 

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Bungalow Style

thumbnail_FullSizeRender-5.jpg Spanish Revival Style

 

The building started in 1910 and in six years, 500 houses had been built. In another ten years, there were only about 20 empty lots left to build on!

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Fairy Tale Style

This was a very popular place to live. It was far enough out of town to be quiet and peaceful, but the streetcar made it easy to get to.

Coe Circle was a grassy park in the middle of the Neighborhood, and the streets go in curvy lines around it, very different from the straight streets in most of the rest of Portland. The streetcar ran right to the Circle and turned around to go back into town. In 1925, Henry Waldo Coe, a doctor who lived in Portland, wanted to give a gift to the city. He bought a copy of a statue of Joan of Arc, a famous French heroine, and had it placed in Coe Circle. It wasn’t put in the middle of the circle, because the streetcar tracks were there! The streetcar line was removed in 1925, but the statue is still off-center.

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Joan of Arc Statue

I walked for about an hour, got tired and came home to read more about what I had seen, and make lunch.

Love,

Grandma Judy