Portland Neighborhood Spotlight: Kenton

Guys, I want to get a little personal here, and tell you about my neighborhood! While every neighborhood in Portland has it’s own charms (seriously, EVERY ONE has something cool to offer) there’s just something about Kenton.  Nestled in the area just west of I-5 and on the north side of Lombard, this little neighborhood has had a quiet renaissance over the last few years. Now, you don’t even have to live in Oregon to know that many of Portland’s neighborhoods are going through big changes quickly.  Kenton definitely hasn’t changed overnight like a lot of those, but it has definitely felt the effects of its surrounding neighborhoods. The result is a quiet, family friendly place that has found a way to keep the classic charms of the old company town while bringing in some new life with the addition of newer, more trendy restaurants and shops.

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Kenton started out as a farming community, until it was turned into a company town by Swift Meat Packing Company in 1911.   As the years went on, Kenton continued to grow and demanded more housing, as well as a park, library and schoolhouse.  In 1913, the Historic Kenton Firehouse was dedicated and became one of the first city designed firehouses in Portland (the first in North Portland).  It was shuttered in 1959, but found a new life in 1976 when it was declared a historical landmark.  After that, it became a community center, and that is still its use today.  In the basement, you’ll find the North Portland Tool Library, which is a huge asset to the community.  The Kenton Neighborhood Association also conducts its monthly meetings in the firehouse.  In the mid 1910s, the city of Portland annexed Kenton and it became the primary home for Portland’s stockyards, and was the center for the West Coast cattle trade.

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The Historic Kenton Firehouse is still a huge part of the community.

In 1959, the Oregon Centennial was held in Kenton.  To commemorate the occasion, a 31 foot statue of the mythical Paul Bunyan was erected at the north end of the business district. Still looking over us today, Paul brings many visitors to the area and is as much a resident (if not more so!) as any of us living here that aren’t made of concrete and steel.  In 2009, Paul was put on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Kenton Neighborhood Association  is currently raising funds to repaint Paul, as he’s definitely had some wear and tear over the years.

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You can donate to help Paint Paul at paintpaulpdx.org

Today, when you visit Kenton, you’ll find the neighborhood has wholeheartedly embraced its history.  Stop in at Cason’s Fine Meats and you’ll see photos of the old stockyards and life in Kenton at the turn of the 20th century.  While you’re there, be sure to grab something for the grill later, or enjoy some of the awesome pre-made food Theo Cason has to offer.  Most days you can find him outside smoking meats on the sidewalk, always happy to chat. One of the newest additions to the N. Denver strip is Swift and Union, which got its name from the Swift and Union Meat Companies that once dominated the area.  Stop in for a delicious dinner or pop by on the weekend to enjoy brunch.  They’ve also got a berry cobbler that manages to smell EXACTLY like Fruity Pebbles (but tastes way better)!

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Swift and Union marries old Kenton with the New Portland in a great way.

Kenton is also home to the Portland International Raceway, which was built where Vanport was once located. Vanport has its own history which has had a lasting effect on the city as a whole. The Portland Expo Center finds its home in Kenton as well.

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Map of the PIR

There’s a lot in the neighborhood that I haven’t gone over, but part of exploring a new area is doing the exploration for yourself!  I’ve already talked a lot about Parkside, but Kenton Station and Kenton Club are staples of the area.  There’s even an art gallery, Disjecta, and Twilight Theater Company to feed your cultural side. I love Kenton because its one of the more diverse areas of Portland.  You’ll meet all sorts of people from all walks of life. The thing they’ll have in common is their friendliness!

What do you love about your neighborhood?  Let us know in the comments!

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