Your Destination Guide to Portland

Destination Guide Portland - Your Destination Guide to Portland, OR

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© Aaron Gustafson

Visitors may be confused crossing the Hawthorne Bridge and entering the Southeast waterfront. Industrial buildings line the river and gleaming skyscrapers are nowhere to be seen. But fear not: Portland's Hawthorne neighborhood is an eclectic, fun mix of vintage and new wave.

Hawthorne is composed of the Buckman, Ladd's Addition, Hosford-Abernathy, Sunnyside, Mt. Tabor, and Richmond neighborhoods and is not considered a neighborhood but rather a district. Technicalities aside, the entire area does have its own distinct flavor. One of the first residents of the area was Dr. J.C. Hawthorne, cofounder of Oregon's first mental hospital. Instead of choosing the obvious (and subsequent) name of Hawthorne Boulevard, however, the main street was originally called Asylum Avenue, after Dr. Hawthorne's endeavors in the mental health field and the newly opened hospital. But once the hospital moved to Salem in 1883, residents did away with the disagreeable name and changed it to Hawthorne Boulevard, to honor the doctor. Despite the name change, the area has continued to grow in diversity and quirky charm, all the more reason to take a walk down the former Asylum Avenue and see for yourself.

While the shiny shops and eateries of the renovated Pearl District represent Portland's urban renewal efforts, the Hawthorne Neighborhood remains cutting edge without much upheaval. Vintage and used clothing shops line the streets, offering trendy items of today and yesteryear at an affordable price.

And for those who appreciate locally owned businesses, nearly every restaurant, pastry bar, and coffee shop is owned and operated by residents of the Hawthorne neighborhood. And eating is something the area knows best. Food from the world over is represented here, and not only typical fare such as Mexican, Italian, and Chinese (though there's plenty of those), but Lebanese, French, Vietnamese, and Indian are all available with various options. Be ready to indulge that sweet tooth: Hawthorne is full of bakeries and dessert shops with wide selections and cozy décor.

Further, it wouldn't be the Northwest without microbreweries. Belmont Station and Lucky Labrador Brew Pub offer up beer born from Oregon hops along with full menus for those under 21.

But there's more to do in this neighborhood than eat, drink, and shop. All things art are quintessentially Hawthorne, with everything from locally-owned, super-trendy music stores to various fabric and yarn stores whose products are colors with names usually found in a Crayola box. For performance art, if you want something more than the traditional movie theatre (no Regal Cinema here, you'll have to settle for the classically-built Baghdad Theatre and Pub, which is supposedly haunted), check out Echo Theatre, specializing in Cirque de Soleil acrobatics without the hefty price and in a much more intimate setting. For lodging, modern hostels abound, full of all the amenities of a hotel except the paystub.

This bohemian throwback is more than a place to spend your money. Despite its hippie-meets-hipster vibe, the antique homes in the neighborhoods are well-kept along tree-lined streets and landscaped yards. A walk down Hawthorne's busy main streets is nicely supplemented by a quieter one through its homes.

It may be just over the bridge, but Hawthorne seems a world away from the steel buildings and offices of downtown. Be sure to make the short trip to see the city's other side.

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