A 2010 addition to the National Register of Historic Places, Portland’s Irvington neighborhood is a slice of the American dream where luxurious porches and ornate entryways overlook expansive green lawns and sidewalk swings hanging from tree branches, sometimes with a secret treefort hidden high amongst the leaves as well.
SEE: Historic Homes and Lush Gardens
Originally plotted as an east side suburb in the late 1800s, Irvington was designed to be a middle- to upper-class residential district where commercial activity was prohibited. Wealthy residents flocked to the area during the early 1900s, building some of the largest houses in the city and flaunting common period styles like arts and crafts, craftsman, colonial revival, prairie style and bungalow. For the first 25 years of the neighborhood’s existence, there were also strict conditions placed upon builders aimed at maintaining the area’s exclusiveness, such as each residence must cost at least $2,500, lots were a minimum of 50 feet wide, houses had to be 25 feet back from the property line, and no liquor production was allowed at neighborhood residences. The grandeur of this legacy has mostly remained intact as the quiet, tree-lined streets still offer an impressive display of early 20th century residential architecture, with some 2,800 properties—the largest historic district in Oregon—“of which 85 percent are considered ‘contributing’ and retain their original appearance,” according to the Irvington Community Association’s home tour, and almost no commercial activity. Of course, you can stroll around Irvington any time of the year (or take a virtual tour, or, if you’re ambitious, make your own walking tour based on photo tours from previous years) and enjoy the beautiful period architecture, but each May on the third Sunday, the official Irvington Home Tour gives you the opportunity to go inside some of these amazing residences. Owners do their spring cleaning and then open their doors to the public to raise funds for the Irvington Community Association (ICA). Running for 30 consecutive years, “the Irvington Home Tour is the longest continuously running neighborhood home tour in Portland,” according to its website, and the sole source of funds for the ICA. Learn about the more recent history of the neighborhood and the genesis of the home tour.
STAY: In Georgian, Victorian or Greek Luxury
And if you actually want to take up temporary residence in one of these historic homes, take your pick of the refined, rustic simplicity of the bricked Georgian House, the opulence of Portland’s White House, or the Victorian charm of the Lion and the Rose. Each bed and breakfast offers a variety of gorgeous suites, standard amenities, and artfully adorned common areas, but The Georgian House is “one of only three true Georgian colonial homes in Portland,” according to its website, and features an English rose garden that was highlighted in Better Homes and Gardens. The Lion and the Rose also provides an English garden, but more impressive distinctions of the Queen Anne-style mansion built in 1906 include the airy, Ionic-columned, wrap-around porch and the octagonal turret, visible between the tree branches to passing traffic on NE 15th Avenue. Yet, the grand approach up the circular drive to the Greek revival mansion style of the White House is a sight that welcomes you with 14 Corinthian columns and a three-tiered fountain.
The Georgian House, 1828 NE Siskiyou St., 503.281.2250 or 888.282.2250
Lion and the Rose, 1810 NE 15th Ave., 503.287.9245 or 800.955.1647
Portland's White House, 1914 NE 22nd Ave., 503.287.7131
EAT: Home Cooking Away From Home
An art-filled, mom-and-pop bistro run by proprietors Bill and Ann Perry, Perry's on Fremont is a comfy, popular neighborhood spot for home-cooked comfort food like pastas, soups, sandwiches, salads, a variety of seafood dishes, and slices of chicken pot pie that are to die for—plus, you can purchase a full, oversized take ‘n’ bake pot pie for when you’re too busy to cook at home. The Perrys are ever-present and always create a welcoming atmosphere, so enjoy happy hour as well as local beer, wine and cocktails on the spacious patio during the warmer months and indulge in the extensive dessert list, which features pies and cakes, cookies and cupcakes, many often served with vanilla ice cream.
Perry’s on Fremont, 2401 NE Fremont St., 503.287.3655
SHOP: “Get There Before the Hoarders Do!”
The sage advice recommending that you show up early to the Irvington Neighborhood Yard Sale to find the best stuff comes from “the yard sale queen,” Melissa Messer’s grandmother. Messer, the coordinator of Irvington’s annual yard sale, which happens on the last Saturday in June, helps gather more than 50 households each year (there were over 70 in 2012!), registers participants, creates a map (available on event day as well as digitally), and donates the registration proceeds to Irvington’s public elementary school. So, join the Irvingtonians this June to search for treasure on those big, beautiful lawns. Happy hunting!
PLAY: Tennis, Anyone?
Irvington is named for Captain William Irving, a 17th century Scottish steamship captain, who owned much of the land where the present-day neighborhood currently sits. Thus, it’s no surprise that two community recreational staples bear his name: The 16-acre Irving Park, located in the northeastern extremity of Irvington, is built on land originally owned by Captain Irving, while the elite Irvington Club, which is the oldest tennis club in the state as well as one of the oldest in the country, has been in operation since 1898. The nonprofit, member-owned complex features indoor and outdoor courts, a swimming pool and weight room, spa and sauna, and a historic ballroom and clubhouse, where you can lounge and contemplate photographs from the club’s storied past. For some sport that doesn’t require reservations or a dress code, the ample Irving Park also offers tennis as well as basketball courts, baseball and softball fields, walking paths, picnic tables, and areas for both the pups and kids to run free. The latter can scramble around the jungle gym or, on hot afternoons, splash in the spectacular water feature.
Irving Park, NE 7th Avenue and Fremont Street
The Irvington Club, 2131 NE Thompson St., 503.287.8749
Want to learn more about Portland's historic Irvington neighborhood? Visit the Irvington page on Neighborhood Notes for events, photos and a local business directory. If you live or work in Irvington, helpful notifications like land use notices and liquor license applications are also included.
Have you recently checked out Irvington? Share your stories, tips and fave destinations in the comment section.