In the early 1860’s, settlers arrived in the area we now call Woodlawn. It developed into a small, rural farming community on the outskirts of unincorporated Albina. In the 1880s the railroad decided to build a train station in Woodlawn on it’s route from Portland to Vancouver and this brought commercial interests to the area. Woodlawn was annexed to Portland (as part of Albina) in the early 1890s.
At the turn of the century, the neighborhood immediately west of Woodlawn, Piedmont, distinguished itself as a strictly residential area. This pushed commercial interests into surrounding neighborhoods, including Woodlawn. Wander the neighborhood and you will find evidence of the long history in the varied architecture; it ranges from Queen Anne’s to craftsman bungalows, smaller homes, many of which were built in the 40s and 50s to house working class residents, ranch-style, and modern condos.
Long-time Woodlawn resident, Anjala Ehelebe, has written a rich history of the neighborhood. Her book ‘Portland’s Woodlawn Neighborhood’ is definitely worth a read, especially if you’re considering making Woodlawn your new home!
Woodlawn is close to I-5 and has Highway 30, a quick route to I-205, along it’s northern edge. There are two elementary schools in the area, Woodlawn Elementary and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary. The nearest middle school is Ockley Green Middle School in Arbor Lodge. Jefferson High School is the closest high school, located in the Piedmont neighborhood.
Woodlawn Park is a wonderful neighborhood resource and gathering spot with abundant picnic areas, soccer, baseball and softball fields, basketball courts, a stage, and a playground area. Surrounded by large trees, this park is also a great spot for walking and it is right in the middle of the neighborhood.
Woodlawn is a tidy neighborhood with a bustling business district directly at its center. The seasonal farmers’ market (May-October) is held here too. You can eat and drink well without walking far in Woodlawn because most businesses hover around Dekum just off the SE corner of Woodlawn Park. Firehouse restaurant was one of the earliest gathering places to open (2008) in this most recent wave of commercial development. The restaurant is in the historic fire station and serves wood fired pizzas and other new American fare.
Directly across the street is a fantastic trifecta of businesses: Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry, Good Neighbor Pizza, and Breakside Brewing’s original location. That’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in one neat row! Just down the street is a one-of-a-kind business in Portland called the Oregon Public Ale House, it’s a non-profit pub that donates all proceeds (after operating expenses and contingency savings) to their select charity partners. When you order, you get to select which organization your proceeds will support.
Back towards the park is Grand Army Tavern, one of the new additions to the neighborhood. This is a great place to stop in for a cocktail and farm-to-table bites. If you venture to the east side of the park (a whopping .3 mile walk) you will be richly rewarded at Ps & Qs Market where you’ll find down-home cooking and can pick up small necessities or indulgences on your way home.