Taking the Banfield to Edgefield, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I told you about the Multnomah County Poor Farm at Edgefield, just east of Portland. Today I will tell you what The McMenamin brothers, Mike and Brian, did with the farm.

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Down the Rabbit Hole?

The brothers had been successful at creating restaurants and pubs out of scruffy buildings, but had never taken on a project this big. There were 292 acres and every inch of every building and every square foot of land needed work. Flooring was damaged from broken windows letting in animals, vandals and rain.img_79111.jpg

The first building they got up and running was the Power Station in 1991, as a guest hotel, theater and restaurant. People came, stayed, paid, and the brothers’ bankers realized this could be a success.

The brothers envisioned what they called a “down-the-rabbit-hole” experience, a place like nowhere else. There would be no phones, no televisions, no smoking, just food and wine, beer and cider, sunshine, rain, gardens, art and comfort.

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ART!

Once the Power Station was up and running, work on the main building, called The Manor, got under way. Having been built for people in wheelchairs, all the doors were really wide. The brothers decided that rather than replace every single door, they would have a staff of artists paint each one, making each room a unique place. That worked so well that they hired more artists, and now art covers all the doors, ceilings, and is hung on every wall.

The building had been vandalized while it was empty, including someone painting a pentagram at the head of the main staircase. The brothers wanted good energy, not bad, in their place, so they hired a troupe of bagpipers to come out. The musicians formed a circle around the pentagram, played “Amazing Grace,” and painted over the evil symbol.

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Thursday at McMinamen’s

The gardens needed redoing. Patrick McNurney was the landscape guru for the property. There were almost no trees, and lots of weeds, but he knew that the land was fertile. He was instructed that there shouldn’t be any straight lines in the gardens, and that the plants should all dance together. He succeeded beautifully.

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Flowers Dancing Together

There is an herb garden, fruit and vegetable garden, and winding paths through groves of aspens and birches. There is a spa with a serpentine hot tub to float and nap in. There is currently a winery, brewery, bakery and distillery on the premises. Yes, it IS heaven.

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A Very Happy Grandma Judy

We enjoyed our day at Edgefield. On the way to the place, we found Ben Pilchuck and his partner blowing glass in the old shop. We had brunch The Black Rabbit Restaurant (there’s a story in the name, too), then a tour around the place with Thursday, who has been working for McMenamin’s for 35 years. She is funny and knowledgeable, and I will be talking to her more, I hope.

It would take weeks to see the whole place, and pages more to tell you all about it. I will show you this wonderful place when you come to visit.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

History Pub

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was another really hot day. By 4:30, it was 101 degrees! Auntie Bridgett and I spent the hottest part of the afternoon in the nice cool Main Branch of the library, downtown. I found more books on Portland’s history and Auntie Bridgett found art books!

In the evening, we had a new adventure. Grandpa Nelson had read about an event called “History Pub”, held at the Kennedy School. There would be dinner and music. We love history, pubs, food, schools, and music, so we went!

The Kennedy School is an elementary school about three miles north of us, built in 1917. That was four years before my Momma was born! The school was named for the man who sold the land to the city of Portland, John D. Kennedy… not the president, as I had thought. The school had been abandoned in the 1990’s because there weren’t enough kids in the neighborhood anymore, and a restaurant company called McMenamin’s bought it.

McMenamin’s saw how this old building could be beautiful and useful again. They fixed the plumbing, heating, and electricity. They re-modeled the classrooms into hotel rooms (each with its own chalkboard!) and turned the cafeteria into a quirky restaurant. There is a small bar called Detention just down the hall from the Principal’s office.

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Fairy Painting in restroom

There is also beautiful artwork everywhere. The halls have murals of children learning and helping each other. Mosaics made from old dishes and things pay tribute to teachers at the school. Fairies even follow you into the restroom….it is magical.

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Teacher Mosaic

We had dinner, walked around the school a bit, then went into the auditorium. This has been re-fitted with cozy, velvet covered chairs and couches, with more artwork and murals on the walls. We learned about Obo Addy, a Ghanan drummer, from Susan Addy, Obo’s widow. Obo Addy came to Portland in 1978 with his four brothers, bringing real African music to this area for the first time. The group toured schools and gave concerts, teaching thousands of people about African drumming, singing and dancing.

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Poster for Obo Addy

Then came the best part of the already wonderful evening….music! Five musicians, a group called Okropong, came out in beautiful African costumes with bells and danced up and down the aisle. They set up different drums in the front and played, sang and danced. The energy was amazing, and the audience began dancing and clapping, too. The musicians went into the audience and took people’s hands, bringing them into the aisle to dance with them. People were having so much fun!

Every now and then, the leader would explain about the music. One piece was from Liberia, a country next to Ghana…he said, “Ghana went to Liberia, fell in love, and brought this one back.”

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The Ghanan drummers of Okropong

After almost an hour of exhausting performance, our musician friends did one final song and danced off stage. We gathered our things and headed for the parking lot, through the halls of the coolest school I have ever seen. We slept like rocks to be ready for the next adventure, whatever that might be.

Love,

Grandma Judy