McMenamins Kennedy School

My Visit to McMenamins Kennedy School

The easy-going and active atmosphere welcomes the guest with its socially open style during the day, yet bids a hauntingly amiable shade by the evening hours.

At least, I have recently perceived such a viewpoint.

Image by Eli Stanphill

“Entrance”  by Eli Stanphill

Known for restoring old buildings, McMenamins discovered this turn-of-the-century elementary school and created Portland, Oregon’s own unique hotel complete with a brewery, colorful bar areas, theater and restaurants.

For years the old, the shutdown Kennedy Elementary School had been empty behind its closed doors. But now, the renovated building seemed to glow from the inside out, such as a warm ember in the middle of a windy, dark evening. Families and friends follow one another down the sloping floors and winding hallways, becoming smoothly immersed within an orange, hazy colored atmosphere. Each dimly lit lamp and chandelier along the corridors, contribute to the next, revealing a constant, tranquil lighting against the dark-edged patterns and relic photos.

Image by Eli Stanphill

“Corridor” by Eli Stanphill

As a correspondent, I sought to take in the hotel’s main quarters and report on what I deemed significant. My notebook resided under my arm as I found my way to the Courtyard Restaurant. Walking back through the multifaceted building, I gazed over original artwork from as early as 1915 amidst the historical photographs, unable to look away from the faces and stories behind the frames.

Image by Eli Stanphill

“Along the Walls”  by Eli Stanphill

As I passed the “honors room,” nicknamed the martini room, the detention center (also known as the whiskey & cigar bar) and the auditorium-now-movie theater, I could not resist entering the boiler room-bar. This is the location for which intricate metal structures and cascading lights meet upon illuminated surfaces, surprising guests with its unique element of the restaurant: offbeat and unintentional grandeur.

After sitting down in the off-lit diner-cafeteria for a few minutes, it was easy to see how the patrons could all look so jovial and calm despite whatever diverse places they’d come from. Here, the story was the same: take a break. With pen in hand, my eyes naturally drifted to the ceiling as the paper lanterns hung, shrouding the room in soft, iridescent hues.

Image By Eli Stanphill

“Lanterns in the Courtyard” By Eli Stanphill

Warm food passed by on waiter’s plates while the sounds of bar attendants flipping drinks and glass vials tumbled across my ears. Distant chatter mixed with the creaking floorboards created an auditory sense that I couldn’t misinterpret. It would seem that the cafeteria-now-restaurant was alive once again in its rightful way, matching the rest of the old school ground’s energy as it does night after night. No matter the festivity, I feel as though McMenamins Kennedy School is place worth visiting for the sake of all its unique greatness, and individual perspective.

To contact:
5736 NE 33rd Ave, Portland, OR 97211
(503) 249-3983


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