Friday, April 18, 2014

Kenton Park

Kenton Park
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Photo of N. Portland's Kenton Park, a few blocks west of the Kenton MAX station. This was sort of an afterthought when I went to take photos of the (locally) famous Paul Bunyan statue; it's the usual neighborhood park, big grassy area with sports fields. I imagine many fond childhood memories have been created here, but Google hasn't figured out how to index those yet, which I'm sure is for the best.

I figured I'd check the Oregonian database for interesting items, in case there was anything to make up for the park's lack of visual uniqueness. Nothing earthshaking here either, but I did put together a short list of miscellaneous news items:

  • The North Portland Commercial Club Women's Auxillary decided to work in favor of a park in 1913. The story reports that they usually focused on rose shows and "eugenic contests" whatever those were. I'm fairly sure I would be horrified if I knew what those were.
  • It was only designated an official city park in 1954; the article notes unofficial names had been in use for quite some time.
  • The Oregon Centennial Wagon Train made a stop here in 1959. The trip began far away in Independence, MO, retraced the Oregon Trail west from there, and ended at the Expo Center, home of the centennial exposition. The leg from Independence OR to Kenton was made with the wagons on the backs of trucks, but at Kenton Park they saddled back up and made the final leg of the journey the traditional way. The story notes that of the 26 people who set out on the journey, only 19 stuck with it to the end. It doesn't explain what happened to the others, so I'm just going to assume they died of dysentery, like in the game.
  • In July 1977, the park was home to an honest-to-goodness organized Hacky Sack tournament. Feel free to roll your eyes at the 70s if you want. I know I am.
  • As I've noted in previous posts about the Kenton area, the 1980s were not a kind decade to the neighborhood. The real estate ads tail off, replaced with stories about petty crime and transients. A December 1985 story chronicled local anxiety about an influx of strip clubs to the neighborhood, with one person saying it wasn't safe for kids to go to the park anymore.
  • A January 2008 story about gentrification mentions the park in passing; the neighborhood had been trying to attract a new Multnomah County Library branch, and a couple of proposals would have sited new library buildings near the park, in a mixed use development with condos on top, similar to libraries in the Sellwood and Hollywood neighborhoods. Then the global economy crashed later that year, and the condo market with it. Kenton ultimately did get a new library, but it opened in an existing storefront on Denver Avenue instead.

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