The Kennedy School originally opened in 1915. It’s located at 5736 NE 33rd Avenue in Portland in what is now called the Concordia neighborhood. Ever since it’s opening, the Kennedy School has been the center of lively activity for the Northeast Portland neighborhood. Over the years 1,000’s of children congregated there. When the school was first built, it was in a rather remote location, standing just three blocks beyond the end of the nearest streetcar line. The line came out of NE Alberta Street, passing through some pretty sparse country I’m thinking, because there was an ordinance that outlawed the shooting of rabbits from the street car! Sure sounds like a good thing to outlaw to me! Can you imagine shooting rabbits out of the window of a street car? The school was also just 8 blocks from the city line. At that time the line was set at Northeast 42nd Avenue. In those early years, numerous students living beyond that boundary had no electricity, water, sewer, or phones!
The first year the school opened just 29 students attended. As the decades passed, the school took on additional civic rolls, further endearing it to its neighbors. The school served the community even when school was not in session. It became a public meeting hall, polling place, a blood drawing center for the Red Cross, a tin can and paper collection site, a weekend playground and even shelter for flood relief.
Over time the school began to fall apart. Having become old and crumbly with a declining enrollment, it was decided by officials that at the end of the 1974-1975 school year it was to be closed down. It was a very sad time for the Kennedy School. Several demolition orders were fought off by neighbors, former students, past PTA presidents, and the Portland Development Commission. It was successful and the building was saved.
The school was presented with many proposals. They ranged from a retirement home to an indoor soccer facility. Mike and Brian McMenamin were one of the many that had a proposal of their own. The brothers won out over the rest and received the approval of the city and the support of the neighborhood. The renovation was launched in the spring of 1997. The 80 year old structure was given new life McMenamins style! Part of the amazing transformation included and was inspired by artwork and stories of students and teachers of days gone by.
On October 22, 1997, the original principal’s bell was once again rung at 7am sharp to welcome the old school’s new beginning as McMenamins Kennedy School.
The school offers fun and unique lodging with eclectic and whimsical flare McMenamins is famous for. You’ll find 35 fun and comfortable guest rooms that were once classrooms. They even have the original chalkboards, cloakrooms, and now private baths and phones. There is a restaurant, many small bars, a movie theater, soaking pool, gift shop, and brewery. As always, you’ll find wonderful extensive art work and historical photo’s covering the walls, ceilings, doorways, and hallways.
The Kennedy School is comfortable and memorable and a great place to gather. It’s located just minuets from the Portland International Airport and downtown Portland. In March of 2010 TripAdvisor.com named the school the #1 quirkiest hotel in the U.S. Imagine that! It is also the home of Concordia Brewery. The Kennedy School, being another one of my favorites, I can’t wait to go back!
Words by Glenda photos by Brian
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