A Brief History Of Kennedy School In Portland, Oregon

The Kennedy School has remained a center that offers lively activities for the neighborhood in Northeast Portland since it opened in 1915. In past years, thousands of children congregated in this building to eat classic “mac and cheese” on Mondays decipher the 3 Rs and to climb hand-over-hand up a gym rope to ring the school bell.

When first built, the location of the Kennedy Elementary school was once remote. It was positioned three blocks past the end of the closest streetcar line. This line which came out of the Northeast Alberta Street, passed through the sparse county, about the ordinance at the time which outlawed shooting rabbits from streetcars.

Also, this school was eight blocks away from the actual city line which was then positioned at Northeast 42nd Ave. In these earlier years, a number of the Kennedy students that lived beyond this boundary were living without sewer, water, electricity, and telephones.

The very first of the elementary classes were conducted on the grounds of the school in one-room buildings in the year 1913, two years before the actual construction of the building. Only twenty-nine children attended the school in the first year.

As the years went by, the Kennedy School took on some civic roles. The building served as a public-meeting hall, a Red Cross blood-drawing facility, a polling place, a collection-site for a tin can and paper drives, a flood-relief shelter, and a weekend playground.

It was regarded as a very sad day at the end of the 1975 school-year the school officials decided to close the school down due to a decline in enrolment. They went onto declare that the building was too old as well as crumbling.

In a desperate scramble to ward off some demolition orders, various neighbors, past PTA presidents, former students along with the Portland Development Commission successfully fought to save this building.

It was Brian and Mike McMenamin who presented one out of the numerous proposals to revive the condemned building. Some of the other ideas included an indoor soccer-facility and a retirement-home. Once they received the approval from the city along with support from the neighborhood, the McMenamins launched their renovation in 1997.

On the 22 October 1997, the first and original bell of the principal was rung at 7.00am on the front-steps to celebrate the new beginning of the old school as the McMenamins Kennedy School. The building now offered fun and unique lodging, a meeting and dining experience. The Kennedy is still a gathering spot for some newcomers and neighbors.

The preservation efforts may have been slow, yet they were extremely successful. The McMenamins managed to transform this structure into a popular movie theatre, a hostelry along with a restaurant and a couple of bars. The building was dedicated in the year 1996, which is the very same year that it became listed on the Historic Register of Historic Places.

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