Continuing my series on Portland’s neighborhoods, this week’s focus is on the Hawthorne neighborhood. Despite some mild gentrification over the past several years, Hawthorne has managed quite successfully to retain its friendly hippy vibe, particularly between SE 20th and 39th Streets. Hawthorne Boulevard is home to vintage clothing shops, eclectic gift shops, brew pubs, coffee shops and pizza places, just to name a few.
A Bit of History
Back in the day, in the 1850’s to be exact, Hawthorne Blvd was called U street. It was the southern part of the city of East Portland, which was separate from Portland proper, just west across the Willamette river. Surrounded by fertile farmland, U street was a country road in East Portland used to transport commodities into Portland. In 1858, Dr. J.C. Hawthorne arrives in town to treat the resident poor, and soon sets up a large mental hospital, thanks to land that was donated to him. U street was renamed Asylum Avenue in 1862. As the Morrison Bridge was built and business and industry started to grow, East Portland and Portland became one. Eventually the hospital closed, and the street name was changed to Hawthorne Avenue in 1888 (five years after the hospital shut its doors). Twenty-five years after that, Hawthorne begins to develop from rural to suburban, and shops, restaurants and housing begin to crop up to resemble what we see today.
Fun Fact: Linus Pauling, the two-time Nobel Prize winner (one for Peace and the other for Chemistry), lived in the Hawthorne neighborhood as a young lad.
In 1927, the historic Bagdad Theater, a Mission/Spanish Colonial Style building was constructed. Today it is a McMenamin’s property, and they have taken great care to preserve the original façade and interior fixtures as much as possible. The brewpub and adjacent theater are practically one and the same. While you can’t exactly buy a beer in the pub then walk into the theatre with it, the movie snack stand serves the same beer and pizza as the pub does (which you CAN eat while watching the latest movie).
Red Light Clothing Exchange. As a Portland resident for 20 years, when I want a quality selection of affordable second-hand clothing, I go here. Their floor is stocked to the brim with both vintage and contemporary duds. Find that unique and fabulous dress for a party, and complete your look with a hat and boots. This incredible store is has so much to offer, catering to both guys and gals. They have plenty of try-on booths, so no excuses when it looks great on the hanger, but not on your bod.
Fried Egg I’m In Love. News flash for those of you who’ve been under a rock for the past five years: Food carts are a thing. An awesome thing. And in Portland, you can find one pretty much a stone’s throw from anywhere. In fact, there are more food carts in Portland per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. (as of this writing). Fried Egg I’m In Love is the darling food cart of Hawthorne. They offer up a hand-held version of the breakfast sammie so inspiring, it’ll bring tears to the eyes of any egg lover. Try their signature Yolko Ono, with home-made pesto, parmesan and sausage. Or their Egg Zeppelin, served with a whole lotta love. (See a theme going here?) Want a hot or cold coffee with that? Want a mimosa or beer with that? Done, done AND done.
Where to Stay
Go to this wonderful, sustainable hostel when you’re new in town and just need a place to hang for up to a week. For around 35 bucks a night, the Portland Hostel offers your choice of girls-only, guys only or co-ed dorm beds. Include that with a common room, common kitchen, free wi-fi and free breakfast, and this is one helluva deal.
Step off of the main boulevard into the residential areas and you can’t help but run into friendly faces tending communal gardens, riding bikes and walking dogs. Home owners take pride in their properties here, and each house is so different from the next. A refreshing twist from the cookie-cutter houses you see out in the ‘burbs.
In the summertime, Hawthorne hosts its annual Street Fair, a family-friendly affair full of music, art, shopping deals, and of course….a beer garden! Just up the road a couple of miles is Mount Tabor, a wonderful urban nature park.
I’m always looking for more places to discover in my favorite neighborhoods. What are YOUR favorite spots to hit on Hawthorne?