Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jewett Park excursion

Stairs, Jewett Park


A few photos of Portland's tiny Jewett Park, a pint-sized triangle of land at the intersection of Vista & Spring St., across the street from Ainsworth School, up in the West Hills. Here's a Google Map of the area, but you really can't see much from above. The photos above show essentially the entire park, and as you can see the place is basically 100% stairs.

Updated 7/31/2010: Ok, ok, added an embedded map in case it helps at all...

View Larger Map

A 1998 Sunset Magazine piece titled "Step up to Portland" talks about the still-elusive Little Red Book of Stairs, and relays this tidbit:

A set of stairs in Portland Heights is actually a park in and of itself. The 18 steps leading from a corner of S.W. Spring Street up to Vista are known officially as Jewett Park, named in 1974 after their creator, Bill Jewett. A bronze plaque next to the steps bears this inscription: "There is nothing like sitting on steps in the sun when one has the unparalleled pleasure of doing just nothing at all."


Jewett Park

The full text of the plaque, for dialup users who'd rather not download the larger & more legible version of photo #2 (I've added punctuation as needed, rather than mess around with HTML center tags and whatnot.)

This little park is given to the City of Portland for the enjoyment of the children of this neighborhood in memory of my parents and brother: Stanley Guion Jewett, Leslie Weidler Jewett, and Peter Jewett, who lived next door for many years.

William Weidler Jewett
"There is nothing like sitting on steps in the sun when one has the unparalleled pleasure of doing just nothing at all."

That's the only mention I've been able to find about the place anywhere on the net. The city doesn't mention it anywhere, which is a real shame. Its creation was obviously a labor of love, and it's a cozy, tranquil little spot, even with the traffic on Vista. It would be a nice place to sit and read a good book, if the sun was out. All in all, it's a very civilized little urban amenity. Poetic, even. And (so far as I know) it's unique to our fair city, but without the forced-smile quirkiness and cloying twee-ness of certain better-known "uniquely Portland" things (*cough* sidewalk ponies *cough*)

Iron Fence, Jewett Park

Iron Fence, Jewett Park

Incidentally, I'm guessing that the Stanley Guion Jewett mentioned above might be Stanley G. Jewett, a wildlife biologist who cowrote several landmark books about the birds of the Northwest. But I could be wrong.

Stairs, Jewett Park

If you're more into extreme action sports, this may not be the place for you, although it might be fun to jump down the stairs on a skateboard, maybe. Technically you're probably not supposed to do that here, so you didn't hear it from me.

It's funny how something created as recently as 1974 seems like a relic of a bygone era. Today's overprotective parents would never let their kids anywhere near these stairs, at least without swaddling them in protective gear. As if kids had any free time to do "just nothing at all" anymore, which they don't. And then there's legal liability issues to worry about, and ADA compliance, and making it "elder-friendly", and there's the vociferous design-junkie community to pacify (and naturally they'll be demanding a kid-hostile "Tanner Springs II", with whirling razor blades this time if possible.), plus the bike fascist community to mollify, and on and on and on. Which is a shame, since these stairs are an interesting use for a weird sloping little parcel of land.

Diagonally across Vista from the park is what's reputed to be one of the city's best pizza restaurants, cleverly hidden high in the West Hills. I haven't been there, but it seems to come highly recommended. And where there's pizza there's usually beer. If you decide to walk, or bike, or unicycle, or otherwise get here under your own power, braving the narrow little streets and giant SUVs and steep hills, you couldn't ask for a more civilized amenity than that.

Alternately, TriMet Bus 51 runs right by the park on its way up to Council Crest, and there's a stop right at Vista & Spring St. If you're a tourist, or you have company in town and you're playing tour guide, you'll probably end up at Council Crest sooner or later anyway. Jewett Park is right on the way there, if you aren't in a hurry and it seems like your cup of tea. I realize it may or may not be. Suffice it to say that I can't think of anything snarky and negative to say about the place, which is quite unusual for me. You can take that as a recommendation, if you like, or as a sign that I've lost touch with my inner edginess, or that someone's bribing me, or blackmailing me, or impersonating me, or whatever.

Updated 7/7/08: I recently realized I only had two photos of the park in this post, and they really weren't that great, so I thought I'd go take another batch and update this post accordingly. The full set's on Flickr here. The park itself hasn't changed a bit, not that I expected it would.

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