There is a place out there that stands the test of time. It blends history with now, ghosts of yesteryear with vibrant life and community. This place is the essence of re-use, of creating something beautiful out of a dilapidated old building and retaining a sense of history. I’m talking about the Mcmenamin’s Kennedy School in Northeast Portland.
The Kennedy School Hotel is like a resort for the folks who don’t like new and shiny and boring cookie cutter hotels. It opened in 1915 as an elementary school and thrived for many years. It hosted a victory garden during WWII (which is once again a community garden today), and produced two major league ball players. In 1975 the school closed due to declining enrollment and its deteriorated condition. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s neighbors waged a battle against the school district to prevent its demolition and in 1994, the McMenamins purchased it and renovated it.
Today, the Kennedy School boasts the following : hotel rooms that were once classrooms (or in my case, I’m staying in the girls ball court), a brewery, a theater open to the public in the old auditorium, a restaurant in the old cafeteria, and honors and detention bars, community space and my favorite, a Turkish soaking pool.
The walls are filled with folk art that recreates the history of the school, neighborhood, and Portland. The hotel rooms each have blackboards, and the main school office is now the hotel office. It really feels like you are in the most fun school ever. Better yet, pricing is affordable. You can expect to pay $109 for a beautiful big room with a queen or king bed. It also includes free movies in their movie theater and use of the soaking pool (my favorite amenity).
All of the facilities are open to the public and you can tell that folks use it as a community resource. It’s by far one of my favorite pieces of Portland — the McMenamin brothers also have pubs and theaters, and other hotels in Oregon and a few in Washington state. If you are nearby any of them, it’s definitely worth a trip.
Here are some photos that I took of the Kennedy School. You can click on the images to see larger photos.