Ventura Park

Dear Liza,

Our dear Volkswagen needed some service the other day, so we drove miles east to the dealership. We had an hour to kill while the oil got changed and the tires adjusted, so we took a picnic, art supplies, and found a new park!

Wide open Ventura Park

Ventura Park is a little over seven acres of grass and trees in the Hazelwood neighborhood of East Portland. It is on Stark Street, which used to be called Baseline Road. One of the 1850 mile markers is set in the corner, showing that it is seven miles from the Willamette River. These markers were set every mile along Baseline Road, which was the main road that farmers in this area used to get their goods to the markets on the river.

Seven mile marker from the 1850s

There are 121 trees in Ventura Park, many of which were planted back in 1959 when the city bought the land as a park for new post-war housing boom in East Portland. The website for the park has a map to show which trees are where, so this is a good place to learn about different trees. The 37 species include Blue Spruce, Ginkoes, and Deodar Cedars, which have aged well. The park has a foresty area, and also a baseball diamond and lots of grass for kids to play.

A fine Lebanon Cedar

There is also something I have never seen before. It is a ‘pump track’, a small dirt ring track for little kids to ride their bikes on. It is designed with banked corners and small rises so that, with practice, a kid could ride all the way around without having to pedal their bike! We saw a few kids enjoying the track… some pedaled, some didn’t. They sure were having fun!

There is a smooth paved walkway all the way around the park, and we saw an older gentleman doing smooth, slow laps in the Fall sunshine. There are interesting stainless steel and stone sculptures, too.

Bull horns? Or a crescent moon?

We got a call that said our car was ready, so we had to scoot away. I hope we can come back to Ventura Park and see some more

.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Accidental Delights

Dear Liza,

Last night, after the weather got cooler and we were all done with work, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. We were headed for Colonel Summers Park, but we got distracted.

We saw signs that said “Shakespeare in the Park” with an arrow pointing…not to the park, but to the Lone Fir Cemetery, which I have told you about before. I like watching plays by William Shakespeare, and so we followed the signs. In the middle of the cemetery, we found a small audience sitting in lawn chairs around one of the war memorials, and people performing a play called Troilus and Cressida. There were hardly any sets, just enough to give the idea of “where we were” for the play, which was an army camp.

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Actors in Troilus and Cressida at the Lone Fir Cemetery

There was no lighting, no microphones, and the costumes were very simple. But it was wonderful to see not only the actors, but the audience there, on a warm summer evening under the tall trees in the cemetery, enjoying theater. We watched the show for a while, then quietly left. I made a note to myself to read the play as soon as I get my Shakespeare books unpacked.

Continuing our walk, we followed Belmont Street west and realized we were only a few blocks from Revolution Hall, the former Washington High School that is now being used as offices for different businesses, concerts, and restaurants.

It is a beautifully designed brick building from 1924 and there is a small restaurant on the roof that has a wonderful view of the city. Since it was almost sunset, we decided to go up and enjoy some wine and watch the sun go down. It was pretty crowded up there on the big flat roof, but we found a table to sit at and watch as the glaring sun dipped behind the western hills and turned the whole sky a soft pink.

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Washington High School, now Revolution Hall

 

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The view west from the roof

Grandpa Nelson said we should get home before dark, so we started walking back along Stark Street towards our house. We saw the Penny Market open, a tiny building on an almost dark street. We went inside, got some ice cream and met Tom, the man in charge. He was very friendly and happy to be living in Portland, too. We got home, tired after our more than 2 mile walk, and got into pajamas.

Love,

Grandma Judy