Overnight in An Oregon School
Don and I have had notable nights in boats, wagons, teepees, caves, barns and much more.
This was our first time sleeping in an old school.
Back To School
There was something extra fun about spending a night at the Kennedy School, at the end of summer.
It was that time of year when kids around the country, were getting ready to go back to school.
This is how the sleek, one-story school looked when it first opened, in a remote area, 8 blocks from the Portland city line.
Young children attended the school until the mid 70's.
This is how the building looked when Don and I arrived in August. A quarter century before, the old school sat vacant, with threats of demolition.
The neighborhood, that had grown around it, fought to keep the building. The McMenamin brothers, who have rescued many historic Oregon properties, stepped in.
I tried to imagine what this space looked like when children entered the front doors in 1915. The ceiling probably looked twice as high, to a firstgrader. The lobby's (original) bas relief panels were probably so high, kids didn't even notice.
Young students would have loved giving the gong a mighty strike... but the gong and gong-holding figures weren't there. Most of the art and decor was added when the school/hotel opened in 1997.
My Memories of Cooper School...
The smell of Kennedy School, conjured up memories of my grade school, built in 1899. I remember walking in those very doors. We had no bas relief decor and there certainly was no gong.
But we could see our principal, Mrs. Tone, seated at her desk in the middle of the hall. (she had no office) And I can still smell the janitor's cleaner, with hints of sassafras!
Welcome to the Kennedy School!
Like all McMenamin properties, there's a lot of whimsical welcoming! At Kennedy School, I especially liked the Welcome Man, painted on an archway.
I was also very fond of the painted kitty at the lobby desk. Lots of staff also greeted us, when we checked in.
So Many Halls
I loved all the reminders of the old school... long hallways and polished wooden floors. The ramps looked original. I
could picture a film projector being rolled from class to class in the 1960's.
There were details that took me back in time, from light fixtures to wooden windows, radiators and porcelain drinking fountains.
Artwork and Photographs
The walls and doors were covered with colorful painted accents and designs. The hallways were filled with framed photos and paintings, that helped share stories about the school and those who attended over the years.
I was intrigued with the Punch & Judy puppet theatre, as well as the images of children dancing the Maypole. Evidently the Kennedy School still celebrates May Day each year, with some form of Maypole celebration.
Headed to Our Room
There are 57 rooms at the hotel, but some are in a new addition.
I made sure to book a room in the original school house. Our door was right across from the water fountain.
One door led to 2 doors, since a large classroom had been divided, to create 2 guest rooms.
We followed the chalkboard, past the old black phone. We opened our door, covered in cherry blossom branches and looked down another tiny hall, to our very own, welcoming chalkboard!
A Blank Slate!
I had been expecting a chalkboard, but I couldn't relax (or get giddy) until I saw that we really had one!
I was excited about this blackboard, (as I think we called them) like some hotel guests are about spa packages or Chocolate & Champagne packages. And yes, there were pieces of chalk and a monster eraser, to hide all my mistakes!
Our room was my style of heaven. The huge window with a view of lush growth, made the room airy and bright.
I wonder how many children sat with chin in hand, staring out that window, avoiding work?
Cherry Tree Room?
Some of the guest rooms seemed to be named for students or teachers from the past. I wondered about our room's name and all the cherry related words and images on our wall.
Then I read about the Nakamura Family, who once donated cherry trees to the Kennedy School. Mr. and Mrs. Nakamura moved to the Portland area from Japan in the 1920's. They raised 7 children, who all attended the school. Sadly, the family was forced to move to a Japanese internment camp in Idaho, during WWII. After a few years, they moved back to Portland and connected with friends and families in the area. Their trees still bloom each April.
Soft Bed and Sweet Words
I loved our curious headboard and the soft white spread.
The words written above our bed and around the room, were poetic and peaceful.
No TV... Yes Bathroom
We didn't miss having a TV. I'm not sure any of the McMenamin Hotels have them. I should have spent some desk time, writing a little Haiku. But I was pretty caught up with the fun of the chalkboard.
Our private bathroom was big plus, that I didn't take for granted. Our other McMenamin stays have involved common bathrooms, so this was a treat.
I tend to go overboard with a theme. I was so excited with the idea of staying in a hotel that had once been a school, that I packed my own school supplies.
I even made Don listen to me read a few pages of Dick Jane and Sally. Which meant, I read about 8 words in the book.
Who Drew This?
I had some drawing fun, but did leave a tiny space on the board for Don's artistic expression.
I refused to think about math with my chalk, so it's obvious, which contribution he made.
Entertainment Around the Hotel
While we waited for our daughter and son-in-law to meet us for the evening, we explored some of the other options besides food and drink. The salt water soaking pool looked relaxing. It was where the teacher's lounge used to be.
The hotel's movie theatre was housed in the school's former auditorium. It was dark in there, so instead I snapped a pic in the Theatre Bar, with chalk drawn images that looked like movie posters. Clever, but the movie options had no appeal to me.
Boiler Room Bar!
When Heidi and Jamie arrived, we headed to the 2-level bar that had once been... the boiler room!
There was a pool table and shuffleboard and jukebox, lost in the tangle of pipes and unrecognizable metal stuff!
A Jumble of Curious Junk
I recognized pieces of radiator holding up the banister railing.
But I had no idea what the round, 10-ton-looking-metal-thing was, above the table for two. I hope it was well secured.
We 4 settled into a cozy booth and ordered some beer, brewed at the Kennedy School.
What had one been the girl's lavatory, is now the inhouse brewery.
It's named for the surrounding, Concordia neighborhood.
Good or Bad?
Before dinner we wanted to sample one more of the hotel's curious pubs. The Honors Bar, with its opera and classical music, was luring me. But the youngins were excited about acting up at Detention.
The bearded fella seated at the tiny bar gave us a little greeting, then we squeezed into a corner spot.
I was pretty excited to check out the Study Hall Cocktail Menu, that had a few options for lightweights.
I'm not a big whiskey drinker, but I wanted the experience. The "wee old fashioned" for $5.00 was more my size.
By 6, the Courtyard Restaurant was pretty hopping, since it was the only venue open to families.
The weather was perfect by that time, so we ended up eating outside, behind a giant Gaudi-style fireplace. Cheese burger, Veggie Burger, Western Salad and Thai Pizza... all decent.
The School was so quiet in the morning. It made me realize that many of the guests in the evening are locals, coming to enjoy food, drink and camaraderie.
It was nice wandering the grounds and paths before things got busy. I wish we could have explored more of the neighborhood that surrounds.
Breakfast was peaceful too. Classical music and coffee was all I really needed, but we split an omelet and it was pretty delicious.
It was nice to have sunlight pouring in the windows, so I could study the crazy light fixtures one more time. And how about Happy and Sneezy, above the bar! Or was that Doc and Sleepy? I'll check it out next time.
We stayed in an old school, filled with history and art! It was a memorable overnight, for sure! Sharing it with Heidi and Jamie, made it extra fun.
It wasn't easy saying good-bye to our brand new Portlandians, before we headed back to Texas. But it was fun knowing we have reason to be out in the area again. Maybe we'll stay again and I'll pack some colored chalk. I can attempt to upgrade my art skills!
Yes! The chalkboard may be what I remember most!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!