Overnight in An Oregon School
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.
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. 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.
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.
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!
One More McMenamins Hotel!
The 4-story building in Portland's West End, looked charming. But Don and I were a little grumpy by the time we drove through a mess of traffic and laid eyes on it.
Don dropped me off and I ran in to ask about parking. The options weren't great, but we lucked out, with a parking meter near the entrance. It only needed to be fed until 7 p.m.
Our drive had taken us through some questionable areas, so I was glad we didn't have to park far away. The area surrounding the hotel seemed lively at 4, so that was good to see.
"Hotel Alma" in 1911
The Cute Annex
The Annex at the opposite end of the block, was the most intriguing. I'm not sure if the skinny little addition was there in 1911, but in the 1920's it held a tire store. Today the "Ringler's Annex" holds a cozy bar, with seating that spills out to the sidewalk. In chilly months, the sidewalk is heated.
In We Go
The entrance on the "wide end" of the triangle had a vintage look. But the tile work was new, since the property wasn't called Crystal Hotel until its reopening in 2011.
The Magestic Hotel (as it was called then) was in shambles when the McMenamin brothers bought it for 3-million.
As we checked in at a small counter, I peeked into the Zeus Cafe. I had heard that it was named after Nate "Zeus" Zusman, who ran the hotel's "Desert Room" nightclub in the late 1940's.
I doubt the Desert Room was ever so bright or quiet. In the late 40's Zeus ran quite a gambling racket, along with his nightclub. He also worked with the madam across the street (Above Jake's Crawfish) to set up call girls when his gamblers needed a little something extra. Our server at Jake's confirmed that their upstairs had once been a house of prostitution.
Art in the Stairwell
The hotel did have an elevator, but the stairs were a lot faster and much more entertaining.
We hiked up 4 flights, grinning at the dramatic dark blue walls and chandeliers, painted pipes and curious murals. I wish I knew the stories behind the artwork.
Most of the photographs were labeled, giving clues about the history of our hotel. I was most touched by a photo of the Zakoji family. They moved into The Magestic in 1946, after being released from a Japanese internment camp.
The family ran the respectable, residential hotel for 20 years, while Zeus and his Desert Room Nightclub, entertained with booze, gambling and prostitution, below.
The Flyin' Home Room
All 51 rooms in the hotel were named for the performers or songs, that have entertained audiences at the nearby Crystal Ballroom... for over 100 years. I didn't have a clue about "Flyin' Home" when I saw our door.
Our Musical Room
We were pretty delighted with our black velvet drapes, animal print pillows and fringed lamps! The deep blue walls and cartoonish musical notes were a hoot!
I read the words, at the end of the staff. "Lionel Hampton... written with Benny Goodman" I had to look that up.
There was a square painting of Lionel Hampton, playing a vibraphone. I looked up the jazzy piece that our room was named for and I pretty much loved it.
Yay for the Sink!
This was our second McMenamins hotel in a week, so we had the "shared bathroom thing" down. Like before, we had handy robes and there were no lines. But having a sink in our guest room was a treat!
I kind of liked our cozy table corner, too. We had glasses, plus a complimentary mason jar that could be used as a beer "growler" at the hotel's brewery.
Exploring the Street Level
Before taking off for the evening, I headed down to the hotel's lowest level and found the saltwater soaking pool. The bamboo walls and brick floors made the space more festive than creepy. I greeted a few young men sitting on the benches and promised I wouldn't make them pose. I asked why they weren't in the water. "Too hot!" They laughed.
It was too early for any entertainment in the basement bar, named for the hotel's other notorious character. Al Winter once ran the hotel's Club Mecca. He was dubbed, "The vice overlord of Portland" by the FBI.
Evidently lots of shady deals were made in the basement space, that is now used nightly for acoustic entertainment.
Club Mecca in the 1950's
Here's the "swanky Club Mecca" in the 1950's after Al had moved on, to Vegas. I wish I could have gone back in time and had a martini at Club Mecca!
Music Here... Or There
We weren't able to take full advantage of all the music options at the hotel, but we did have a peek in Al' Den around 9:30. A woman with a beautiful voice was performing on guitar.
Just a short walk down the street, we peeked at the Crystal Ballroom in the early morning. The venue has held everything from folk-dance gatherings, to performances by Tina Turner. Today, hotel guests get special perks when attending concerts. If we'd only had more time...
If Walls and Halls Could Talk
I learned after our stay, that the hotel took on a different focus in the 60's and 70's, In the 1960's the building housed a head shop and by the '70's the area was called the Pink Triangle. The hotel was transformed to a gay bathhouse.
The building itself was incredibly unique and the renovation and decoration was quite amazing. We've stayed at many hotels with colorful pasts, but this one had more than its share!
I feel like we were hardly able to experience the place with our short visit. We didn't make use of the hotel's food, bar, pool or music and that is almost sinful. But our room was comfy and clean and fun. Too bad we couldn't have found a recorded loop of Lionel Hampton's vibraphone. I would have loved drifting off to sleep with that sound!
A McMenamins Hotel Experience!
I stayed at the Edgefield with my sister, long before I was writing about "Notable Nights" in a blog.
and transforming historic properties for years. We decided to spend a night at one of their hotels, just outside of Portland. The property had once been a Poor Farm.
"The Multnomah County Poor Farm" of 1911
I remember when Jennifer and I first pulled up to this amazing place, 7 years ago.
We knew the property had once been an institution for those in need, but that was just the beginning of what made the place so curious.
Hard to Imagine
This old photo shows the building over 100 years ago, when the facility opened as a welfare reform effort. The plan was to give refuge for the poor and ill. Those who were able-bodied, worked on the farm.
The institution was called a "poor farm" for decades. During the depression the farm held 600 residents, but the numbers dropped during WWII. The institution then became a nursing home, called Edgefield Manor, until it closed in 1982.
The Administrator's House
When Jennifer and I arrived 7 years ago, there were no rooms left in the main building. We took a guest room in the sweet 2-story house, that had once been the Administrator's home. We felt like young sisters again, sharing a room... with a bathroom down the hall.
Arriving With Don
Don and I arrived on a beautiful July day, for our Edgefield overnight. We were glad there were rooms available in the main building, even if we couldn't get one with a private bath.
Halls and Art
The interior was a little dim and stuffy, like I remembered. But the painted doors and murals lifted the institutional feel.
I remembered many of the colorful doors! Each guest room had a painted image, honoring a former resident of the poor farm/nursing home.
I hoped our room would have a colorful drummer rabbit or a farmer with bunnies, but our door had an image of a horse behind a door. I could barely even see the horse in the painting. I was briefly disappointed.
I didn't appreciate our special room until I read the words about Old Colonel, on the wall. Old Colonel was a horse, not a human resident of the poor farm.
A Loyal Horse
The words on the wall, told the story of the heroic horse, that once worked for the fire bureau, near Portland. When he retired from fighting fires, he did light duty at the farm, where he was reunited with one of his old colleagues. He and the fireman recognized each other, having worked together for 11 years. Sweet...
Our cozy room was missing a few things, like air-conditioning. But, I loved having an open window and a fan! I didn't miss the TV or phone. I was even okay with hiking down the hall for a bathroom. But the absence of a sink, took some getting used to.
After unloading our bags in the room, Don and I took off to explore the halls. I loved the little jack-in-the-box. It was painted, where wall meets the ceiling.
I also loved the tiny wall nook, that confused the eye. The woman, window and phone were painted, but the shelf and pamphlets were real.
A guest now and then might find some of the artwork creepy or even disgraceful. But most visitors are totally delighted to see how different artists, have playfully incorporated the images of former residents, into the art. There were stories and write ups behind many of the colorful murals. We needed a week to absorb it all.
Winery, Brewery and Distillery
After wandering the halls, we headed out to the grounds. 100 years ago, there were 330 acres of farmland, where residents worked to provide food for the institution. Today, there are fewer acres, but there are fruit trees and vegetables and herb gardens. The vineyards and brewery and distillery provide good beverages, but jobs as well.
Finding a Bite to Eat
There were so many choices for food and drink, inside the main building. But for lunch, Don and I wandered outside to the Power Station, that once provided coal-fueled steam heat and electricity to the property. We had a light lunch on the garden patio.
Black Rabbit Restaurant
The Black Rabbit is the hotel's main restaurant. I remember eating breakfast in a cozy booth with Jennifer. The pretty restaurant was closing, when Don and I were ready for dinner at 10:00, but we got a booth back at the Power Station. Eating late isn't the healthiest, but it turned out to be cheaper. They had a late night Happy Hour Menu!
One of my favorite parts of staying both times, was enjoying the many porches. Don and I actually made use of about 3 different ones. Most of the time, we had them to ourselves.
You'd have to have more than a night, or be a total drunken fool, to enjoy all the pubs and taverns. Just finding them was fun enough. Some were hidden inside the building and some were hidden underneath growth!
You also have to have time, if you want to to fit in a 2-hour movie. Jennifer and I had fun taking photos from the balcony in the movie house. Don and I also peeked inside when it wasn't movie time. That was actually good though. In the dark we would have missed seeing the gremlins near the ceiling.
Quick Soak at Ruby's
I got to enjoy the salt water pool on both visits. Don and I had to rush after dinner, to get there before closing. We changed and hurried in our cotton bathrobes to "Ruby's Spa" and hit the water by 10:45.
At 11, a voice in the pitch dark announced closing time. (luckily there was no whistle) The lack of light actually made the exit of pool guests pretty comical. We offered some cell phone light to one couple who had lost their flip flops. Before long, the guests were all headed down the garden path, towards the hotel... looking like a parade of ghosts in our white robes.
Ghosts in the Hall
Many of the robed guests continued to wander in the halls, studying the murals. It felt totally different than hours before, when day guests were visiting. It was quiet and cozy and dim. Then the robe-wearing ghosts in the hall, suddenly looked more like patients in a mental ward. That amused me.
My stay at Edgefield was every bit as fun, the second time as the first. I felt like I was floating around in a dream, with all the whimsical art and dim lighting. I love knowing that I didn't see it all. There are so many hidden surprises that I will just have to find next time!
Sold on the Sign
Why Write About This?
I feel like our little motel needs some recognition. I admired a nice mural of the Taj Mahal as the owner checked us in. He was very pleasant and I believe he lived upstairs. There was nothing Norman Bates about that. It was nice knowing the actual owners were in charge.
The nice owner upgraded us to a King room. $80.00 is a great price for a town with expensive hotels.
The red chairs were comfy. The red microwave and red mugs were handy. All was clean and updated. Best of all the bed was quite luxurious and we got TCM, which is my favorite channel. I love old movies. Psycho was not playing.
This must by why Bend hotels are expensive. Bend is very pretty. We had the best evening.
We weren't drawn to the hotel's architecture or history. The building is fairly new and sort of thrown together with a turret here and a balcony there.
Mostly Don and I just couldn't pass up the Themed Room Experience. We were determined to stay in one of the hotel's 40, kooky looking rooms. You never know when an exciting hotel will suddenly go out of business. Then you have to kick yourself, for letting it get away. We've experienced that before.
Last July, we arrived on a Monday, to take advantage of a promotional deal. Don and I climbed the porch stairs and walked into the lobby.
For a hotel that boasts about fantasy filled rooms, there was absolutely no character to the lobby. The 2 ladies in their uniform vests, also seemed lacking in character. We were given a key to The Treasure Island Room and headed up more stairs, with our suitcases. Odd to have no elevator, in a fairly young hotel.
The Treasure Island Room
I felt like we were in an apartment building as we walked down the musty smelling hallway. Then I noticed the fake jewels and the titles on each door. "Sleeping Beauty's Castle" and "Jungle Safari" I was giddy with anticipation.
We opened the door to our own special room and found it already prepped, with spotlights and romantic music and an ice bucket with chilled apple cider! It was just as silly as I had hoped it would be!
Bathroom on the Lower Deck
Before climbing the wooden steps to see the wonders of our ship-themed room, we searched the bathroom for hidden treasures. A good sized dressing area held the vanity and robes. One door led to the toilet and the other to a closet with a fridge... Ah-ha! Two pieces of cheesecake and two plastic forks!
Next we headed up the steps and did exactly what The Anniversary Inn hopes their guests will do. We wandered the space smiling and procaliming, "Wow! Look at that. Wow!"
But we were also laughing. A lot. It was so incredibly corny and kitschy and hilarious and I loved every bit.
The Upper Deck
The whole guest room was actually huge. As we moved past the red shipwheel, we gazed upward at the loft! The painted walls made it look like our bed was neatly placed in the bow of the ship... or was that the poop deck? And what about that funny little sail on the mast? It was hiding our 40" TV. So clever.
Up, in the Seagull-filled Sky!
The painted clouds and gulls were illuminated by two bedside lanterns. There was also a blinding spotlight, coming from one of the masts. The rotating ceiling fan, created a strobe effect that made me a little seasick. It took a while to figure out how to turn the spotlight off. However, the king-sized bed with nautical comforter, turned out to be very comfortable.
Standing at the railing, I took in the exciting view below. The adventurous side of me did a lot of pondering. A rope here... a horizontal pole there...? What a great photo, if I could get myself into that little crow's-nest-tower-thing!
Romance With Every Glance
It was hard to determine what was the most entertaining part of the room. The table, filled with sand and shells was the perfect place to enjoy sparkling cider and cheese cake.
But the shower with nearby towel swans, had me totally giggling. First, you had to sort of walk the plank to get to the little island that held the flesh-colored, jetted-tub. "Is there a shower?" I cupped my hand like a pirate's spyglass and focussed upward. Sure enough, there was a shower head coming from a coconut, near a dangling seagull.
Don and I both fumbled with the faucet, but couldn't get any water to come on. I made the hike down to the desk to inquire and after two different people visited the room, we had a working faucet. That was good. There was no way I was paying for a night in the Treasure Island Room and NOT using the coconut shower.
The website mentioned that our room had a balcony. "If you be feeling homesick for land, step out...see the Boise scenery!" Evidently recent guests must have felt homesick for their cigarettes, because the standing ashtray was quite full.
So I made use of the balcony chairs instead. I brought them inside and up on the deck of the old "Hispanola". You never know when some other pirates might visit.
Sharing Some Grog
On our way out to dinner, I asked our vested woman at the desk, if someone could clean our ashtray. We returned later that night and clearly no one had plundered our cigarette butts... or removed them. (I don't speak Pirate well) That made me so irritated, I had to get my mind on other things. I made Don pose for photos with me.
If we had owned a copy of Treasure Island, I would have brought it along and made Don listen to a chapter. That's pretty much not what they expect their romantic couples to do at the Anniversary Inn.
But I did bring a copy of Mutiny on the Bounty, starring a very handsome Clark Gable. That turned out to be a lot more fun than I thought. I wish my photo could have captured the film's scenery and how it actually blended with the sails and ropes, surrounding the TV. That was actually very fun.
Don and I survived our night at sea. I did have to make the treacherous hike from the loft, down all the stairs to the restroom in the middle of the night. If only I'd had a torch.
I got up with the sun the next day and headed down the hall in my running gear. I don't think that's typical hotel guest behavior at Anniversary Inn. But it was actually a pretty nice way to make use of the inn's location.
I headed up the hill towards an area known as Depot Bench. It was such a beautiful morning, despite the haze of recent fires. I ran and paused and ran and paused. What a lovely city. I was kind of surprised that the Anniversary Inn looked sort of appealing from above.
Back for Breakfast
When I returned the halls were lined with holders for breakfast trays. I raced to get my shower and it was pretty comical trying to get my hair shampooed. By the time the water left the coconut, fell 20 feet and reached my sudsy head, it more of a mist. I stuck my head under the faucet.
Flowers & Feast
Don and I needed a little food reward after all the trickiness of showering. We spread the feast out, over the sand-filled plexiglass shell. Red and blue silk roses, a carafe of coffee, croissant with egg, frittata, toast and yogurt with fruit. It was actually pretty tasty and I was glad to just relax in our room and not share a breakfast room with other romantic guests.
But, when Don and I need a romantic getaway, we will go elsewhere. The over all feel of the hotel was odd. The staff seemed weary and the halls and stairs felt like they were intentionally blah, to make the room more exciting. I'm so glad we had fun and I'd actually be open to experiencing a room at the Salt Lake City location, in an historic building. But it may be a while before I get my sea legs, for another try.
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!