Lunch in St. John’s

Dear Liza,

Portland is one big city that used to be a lot of smaller cities. Our own neighborhood of Sunnyside used to be part of a town called East Portland.

Ten miles north of downtown Portland was the town of St. John’s. It was a separate city from its founding in 1902 until 1915, when citizens of St. John’s and Portland voted to combine the cities. Because it is separated by a large industrial park along the river, St. Johns has kept its own flavor and style. It is quirky, with a mixture of country clunk and wry humor that is very different from the hipper, slicker style of Downtown.

Crossing several bridges over our magnificent river just because we can, we drove to this lovely outpost for lunch the other day, and stepped into McMenamin’s St. John’s Pub. It has the magic garden-y feel of most of McMenamin’s properties, with lots of plantings, smaller spaces within the big space, and art in unexpected corners.

We had cold drinks to take the edge off the 90 degree heat and just took some time out from 2022. We watched the cottonwood seeds drift by like fairy dandruff and heard Steller jays mentioning that they would like some fries, please.

When we were relaxed and sated, we took a slow walk around the ‘downtown’ of St. John’s. We enjoyed seeing how the old has become new. An extinct Signal gas station sells pizza, an old book shop sells second hand records.

Everywhere, the past which could have been lost has been kept and re-purposed.

We started to get very warm as the day heated up, and decided it was time to head home. Getting delightfully lost as we often do, we saw parts of the city we have never visited, and realized there is still a lot of Portland we haven’t seen.

More to explore for later!

Grandma Judy

Park Tour in North Portland

Dear Liza,

Rain has become the “normal weather” here, so when there is some sun, we make the most of it! Sunday was a sunny day so Grandpa Nelson and I went out for a driving “park tour” of this City of Roses. Auntie Bridgett had a lot of art work to do, so we kissed her good-bye and promised to bring back good pictures.

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Band stand at Peninsula Park

First, we drove to Peninsula Park. which was built in 1909 as the city Rose Garden. There are a few thousand rose bushes, with a very few blooms still in sight. Most were pruned down for the winter, of course, and the garden was laid out in a wonderfully formal arrangement, looking like they belong in Le Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. There is also a gazebo-style bandstand and old fashioned pavings. These are surrounded by tall and beautiful elm, birch, maple and ginko trees, all shedding their leaves most colorfully. There is even a soccer field and play area.

We left Peninsula Park knowing that we would return in the summer to see the roses at their peak, and headed off to find lunch. In the historic suburb of Kenton we found lunch and Paul Bunyon. This 31 foot tall statue of the legendary lumberjack was built in 1959 (when I was three years old!) as a tribute to the lumber industry in Portland. It got a new coat of paint last year. The statue is very big for the little bit of land it is on, but people come from all over to see it.

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Paul Bunyon

We enjoyed lunch at Swift and Union, a beef-themed cafe where we had no beef: french fries, squash soup, and salmon cakes filled us up and made us happy.

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Columbia Park

We drove west to Columbia Park, which was built in 1891, when this area was still a separate city called Albina. The park has climbing and water toys for summer, basketball courts, but also a large forested area for walking through. It was nearly empty and very beautiful. The fallen leaves made an almost uniform carpet over sidewalks, walls and lawns, looking like a coloring book filled in by someone with only a yellow crayon.

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St. John’s Bridge from Cathedral Park

Westward and northward, we passed the University of Portland Campus and drove along the Willamette to Cathedral Park, so called because it runs along the river under the cathedral-like columns of St. John’s Bridge. The bridge was built in 1931 and is acknowledged to be the most beautiful bridge in the city, and possibly in the country. This park has no formal plantings, but some large public sculpture, trees, and the river and bridge itself make for a memorable spot.

When we were cold and a little damp (the sun had hidden itself behind some clouds) we got back in Miles the Volkswagen and drove across this lovely bridge. It is so high above the river ( 205 feet) it doesn’t need to be a drawbridge like the others in town, and soars like a rainbow.

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Rain forest in Forest Park

On the west shore, we found Forest Park, a 5,157 acre park with almost no development. It is, as it promises, a forest. We found a narrow residential road that ended at Lief Erickson Drive, which looks like it used to be for cars but is now only for bikes and people. It was getting damper and colder, but we walked a quarter mile up and found a Jurassic Park-like rain forest and fairy sized waterfalls. We will come back here again.

Driving back to town, I noticed that the #15 bus runs almost to the park entrance! I could walk to Belmont, get on the bus, and be here in about an hour. Or in the car, 20 minutes. Not bad for proximity to a huge, bustling city.

We got home and warmed up, and when Auntie Bridgett had finished her work, she and I went for a walk through Lone Fir Cemetery. But I will tell you about that tomorrow.


Grandma Judy