Boise-Eliot, The North Mississippi District, and Overlook


Inner Southeast Portland is urban, neighborly, and unapologetically liberal. For example: Solar power usage has grown slowly around the Portland metro area for obvious reasons; inner southeast neighbors with good sun exposure are now leading the charge according to a recent article in their neighborhood newspaper The Bee.

The official neighborhood designations here are Kerns, Buckman, Hosford-Abernethy, and Brooklyn. Some blocks within these environs are better know by their smaller neighborhoods, like Ladd’s Addition or Clinton. Inner southeast Portland borders the Willamette River on the west, the Sellwood neighborhood along the south, Burnside Street along the north, and SE 28th Ave along the east. Along the south, the Brooklyn neighborhood becomes Sellwood where McLoughlin Blvd and Highway 99E meet.

This entire section of Portland is a mix of light industrial, residential, and commercial. In the past, the commercial areas of inner Southeast have been dismissed as unworthy of much attention. But the eastside’s status has risen dramatically over the past few years. The Central Eastside Industrial District contains industrial and artisan-type businesses including a custom mattress maker, a glass blower, at least two vintage hardware stores (Restoration Hardware, Hippo Hardware), and numerous studios. On the first Friday of each month, over 30 businesses (including 18 galleries) throw open their doors for food, drink, and hospitality. Their monthly “First Friday” event has been modeled on the Pearl District’s successful First Thursdays. Upscale restaurants like Le Pigeon, veggie-focused joint Farm Café, and funky restaurant/bar/lounge Doug Fir draw foodies and hipsters to Burnside after dark. Coffeehouses and innovative, small eateries are popping up on nearly every corner in inner southeast. But, true to the inner southeast neighborhood spirit, these businesses aren’t re-shaping this area into another Pearl District. They’re just enlivening its already eclectic character.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is located in southeast Portland in a gorgeous location along the Willamette River waterfront. The museum was founded in 1944 and houses 219,000 square feet of “brain-powered fun through hundreds of exhibits and hands-on demonstrations.” The museum is targeted to children; it also includes a state-of-the-art OMNIMAX dome theater that appeals to both kids and adults. The nearby Vera Katz Esplanade is a 1.5 mile paved, walking path that runs from near OMSI past the Hawthorne Bridge and all the way to the Steel Bridge. On a nice day, you’ll find joggers, walkers, dogs, and strollers aplenty.

The Kerns neighborhood borders the Lloyd District on its north side and sits just above the north side of Burnside Street. Main artery, Sandy Blvd, runs through its center. There are a few older houses here, but mostly apartments and duplexes. In 1998, the Kerns Neighborhood Association applied to the Bureau of Housing and Community Development to become a Target Area. The Kerns Target Area Project provides the low-income neighborhood with technical assistance, organizing support and funding to design and complete community improvement projects. About 26% of residents own their own homes here. Elementary, middle, and high schools rank from strong to satisfactory depending on where your home lies; the neighborhood is served by 3 elementary, 3 middle, and 3 high schools located north, south, and east of Kerns.

The Buckman neighborhood has a community feel with plenty of commercial businesses and nightlife appeal. Buckman home styles include classic Portland foursquares, Craftsmans, and various English styles. A number of homes here are over 100 years old. Only 18% of homes here are owner-occupied; the median home price falls into the high $300k range. Home prices have risen about 40% over the last five years as restaurants, coffee shops, and stores have moved in. There’s a moderately high crime rate in Buckman, mostly due to a large number of motor vehicle thefts. Most of the elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools are rated as strong by the Oregon Department of Education. About 500 students from around Portland attend the Buckman Arts Magnet Elementary School, an award-winning school utilizing an arts-integrated approach to learning.

Spreading out from Burnside along 28th St is a pleasant neighborhood within Buckman that includes excellent restaurants and the charming Laurelhurst Theater. Ken’s Artisan Pizza attracts pie lovers from throughout the metro area. Lines are often out the door for Ken’s wood-fired creations. Bamboo Sushi is the first sushi restaurant in the United States to be certified as sustainable. Staccato Gelato dishes up handmade gelato and homemade donuts. Crema Bakery and Café serves French-pressed Stumptown coffee and homemade bakery treats like cakes, cookies, and muffins. This highly walkable stretch is a delight for families, couples, and others looking for a small community within the larger city.

The East Bank Farmer’s Market is held on Thursday evenings from May through September at SE Salmon and SE 20th. This is an extension of the popular Portland Farmer’s Market. The 30-acre Lone Fir Cemetery is located at SE 20th and SE Morrison. Some of Portland’s most famous residents are buried here; the cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Many Portlanders may be challenged to tell you exactly where the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood is. But, if you mention better-known Ladd’s Addition or Clinton then recognition will dawn.

The most recognizable feature of Ladd’s Addition is its diagonal/circular street pattern. Although this is a busy section of town, virtually no traffic ventures onto Ladd’s odd streets. After all, a circle is never the fastest way to get from one point to another. This lack of traffic appeals to families seeking quiet and a safe place for kids to play while still remaining close-in to Portland’s attractions. Driving downtown takes less than 10 minutes; it’s a short drive down Hawthorne and over the bridge. William Ladd, an early Portland mayor, laid out the “wagon wheel” street design after a similar one created and built in Washington D.C. Four rose gardens and a central garden can be found within the street design.

Ladd’s Addition is one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in Portland and includes various homestyles from Arts and Crafts and bungalows to ranches. SE Hawthorne, Division St, SE 12th, and SE 20th comprise the neighborhood’s borders. Beautiful, gracious American elm trees line the quiet, family-friendly streets. This neighborhood has grown immensely popular in recent years and prices have risen accordingly. Abernethy Elementary, Hosford International Middle School, and Cleveland High School are all rated as strong by the Oregon Department of Education. The only neighborhood restaurant is European-flavored Palio’s Dessert and Espresso located at the center of the wagon wheel. Homes here are a reasonable walk from Hawthorne St or Division St.

Nearby Colonial Heights offers many of the same amenities of Ladd’s Addition, minus the strange street configuration. It’s still a short walk to the shops, restaurants, and amenities of both Hawthorne St and Division St. The neighborhood isn’t quite as old though; homes began being built in the 1920s and mostly finished in the 1950s. A few homes have views.

Clinton is an up and coming neighborhood clustered around SE Clinton and SE 26th. Like the rest of inner southeast, good restaurants and interesting shops are opening their doors here. This cute, funky neighborhood includes Swedish-restaurant and critical darling Broder and the alternative arthouse Clinton Street Theater. This “alternative” section of town is gaining popularity, but home prices are still within reach of many. Fixer uppers are still prevalent; fully remodeled homes are not. The neighborhood schools are rated from exceptional to strong.

Division Street is a central neighborhood gathering spot for the residents of Hosford-Abernethy. Popular Portland grocery store, New Seasons, chose to open a location on Division at SE 19th. Pok Pok is probably the best Southeast Asian restaurant in Portland. The People’s Co-Op is a community owned natural foods store that has its own year round farmer’s market. Lauro Kitchen serves outstanding gourmet Mediterranean fare. Pix Patisserrie, an excellent dessert, cafe began and is still located here. Bountiful plates of mouthwatering BBQ delights are served at Clay’s Smokehouse Grill.

Small, community parks are scattered throughout Hosford-Abernethy.

The residential Brooklyn neighborhood is the remaining inner southeast environ. This formerly Italian neighborhood (thus the name) in undergoing a renaissance much like the rest of Portland. The median home price for the Victorians, ranches, and scattered bungalows in this area of town average just over $300k. Homes are still within range for many first time homebuyers even though prices have risen over 75% in the last five years. Nearly 45% of Brooklyn residents own their homes.

The neighborhood seems to be in the middle of everything with its close proximity to Hawthorne’s commercial district, Sellwood, the rest of inner southeast, and quick access to downtown via Highway 99E. A working rail yard resides in the neighborhood and busy Milwaukie Blvd runs right through the middle, so noise can sometimes be a problem in certain sections. The active neighborhood association is working with the city on addressing current noise issues as well as future concerns about the projected light rail extension between Brooklyn Yards and OMSI.

The availability of public transportation is a huge plus for many residents; 4 bus lines serve this part of town. Brooklyn students are schooled at 3 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, and Cleveland High School. Each of these schools is rated from strong to satisfactory by the Oregon Department of Education. Jackson Middle School was recently rated as exceptional.

Brooklyn neighborhood music venue, Aladdin Theater, opened its doors in the 1920s. Back then, the joint was a vaudeville house with hosts like Jack Benny. After a colorful history, it was renovated in 1993 and turned into the premiere music venue that it is today. The 620-seat Aladdin bills itself as a “home away from home” for musicians of all types.

Transit options from inner Southeast are plentiful. Bus service runs alongs many of the main thoroughfares including Burnside, Hawthorne, Division, Powell, and Milwaukie. One bus even runs straight through the wagon wheel at the center of Ladd’s Addition. Each of the southeast neighborhoods is a short drive from downtown Portland, about 5-10 minutes depending on where you start and time of day. Portland International Airport is about a 20-25 minute drive.

One Comment on “Boise-Eliot, The North Mississippi District, and Overlook

  1. What about the Sunnyside neighborhood district? Hawthorne? I’d say it would be number one on the list. It the Haight district of San Fran Portland!