In the first two entries of this series, I wrote about Portland, Oregon’s bike culture and the thousands of cyclists that take advantage of the city’s 350 miles of well-marked bike lanes. I followed that with an entry on the many food carts that sell savory dishes from all over the world at reasonable prices. I also wrote about the hundreds of microbreweries and lively neighborhoods full of small café’s, specialty markets, bakeries and independent coffee houses.
While cycling throughout the city neighborhoods, I was surprised and impressed to find that Portland has a large concentration of colorful, vintage Arts & Crafts style homes and other meticulously restored homes of the era. Most of the vintage 1920’s homes I saw were constructed from wood during the once booming lumber era, rather than brick like so many Detroit homes of the same period. In this, the final entry on cycling in Portland, I offer a look at some of the beautiful homes and Historic neighborhoods.
The Historic Irvington and Alameda sections are some of the city’s most exclusive. The tree-lined streets had some of the oldest and best restored turn of the century homes found in the city. The upscale Hollywood neighborhood is part of the Irvington area and found within that section is the Hollywood Theater, a fully restored, 1920s gem.
Another interesting area of the city I rode through was the Alberta Street neighborhood in Northwest Portland. It was once the center of the city’s African-American community. However, urban renewal programs have shifted a good part of that population into other areas of the city, and Alberta Street has now morphed into an upcoming arts and shopping district catering to artists and other subculture groups.
Historic St Johns neighborhood is about seven miles north of downtown, and it reminded me of small town America. It had a quaint town square with streets of small, independent stores and modest wood frame homes. My ride out there took me across the expansive Saint Johns Bridge that was built in 1931. At that time, the Deco style bridge had the longest span of any bridge west of Detroit. It is the highest bridge I’ve ever ridden across. Just past the center, good judgment took over and I hopped off my bike and walked to the other end. At the time I was on that bridge, there was a tremendous amount of fast, heavy, truck traffic and the gusty tail winds they created were blowing me around. Since I wasn’t in the mood for a swan dive over the short railings into the river below, my two feet finished the trip across.
The Hawthorne District in Southeast Portland is where I stayed. It’s a large area made up of various neighborhoods full of small, charming Craftsman Bungalows and other home styles, including a few from the Victorian era. Hawthorne is a unique, quirky neighborhood with hundreds of businesses catering to the young people who have settled there. With so much variety, it’s a great neighborhood to explore on a bicycle.
Like many cities, downtown Portland has a hip, trendy area called the Pearl District. It was once a light industrial/warehouse area and those buildings have been converted to pricy lofts, expensive restaurants and high-end specialty stores.
In addition to many interesting neighborhoods, Portland is full of parks. The largest is Washington Park at 400 acres. It is home to the Oregon Zoo, a Japanese Garden, tons of walking trails and other attractions. My favorite section was the Rose Garden. It featured over 7,000 bushes representing more than 550 varieties. The streets leading up to and the roads within the park were especially steep and winding. They reminded me of those found in San Francisco. It was a strenuous ride and pedaling there made me appreciate the seldom used low gears on the bike I was riding. Cycling up to that beautiful park to enjoy the gardens and views of the city was a fitting end to a few days of exploring Portland on two wheels.