Exploring the Piedmont Neighborhood / by Chris Bonner

Piedmont loosely translates to "foot of a mountain." This name was likely bestowed upon this neighborhood because of its views of Mt Hood. The name may sound grandiose but Piedmont represented a new idea for a neighborhood. Piedmont was Portland's first strictly residential development; there were no commercial properties allowed, only residences. The area was developed by a group of men, including Edward Quackenbush, William S Ladd, William Wadhams, and S.P. Lee, who operated under the name The Investment Company. They described what they were creating in Piedmont like this, "The Emerald Portland's Evergreen Suburb, Devoted Exclusively to Dwellings, A Place of Homes."

The parcel that became Piedmont was purchased by The Investment Company in 1888 for $24,000 and platted shortly thereafter in 1889. In an effort to make the neighborhood even more attractive to potential residents, The Investment Company deeded a 20 foot strip of land on the eastern border of Piedmont to Vancouver Railway Company so they could extend their tracks north to Portland Boulevard (now N Rosa Parks Way) and east into Woodlawn and up to the Columbia River. 

There was no shortage of rules within the development–restrictions on positioning of residences, no commercial buildings, and no establishments making or selling alcohol–and through the 1940s residents were largely upper middle class people working in either Portland or for the Swift meat packing plant in Kenton. The growth of the Kaiser shipyards on Swan Island during WWII brought more people to the area for work and the Piedmont neighborhood saw an increase in renters and a shift away from all residences being owner-occupied. 

Piedmont is still largely residential today save for some commercial buildings along it's eastern border (NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd) and on Lombard Street to the north. Some of the original residences still stand including most of the Gainsborough Subdivision which originally covered an eight-block area where all the homes incorporated design elements of English Cottage and Norman Farmhouse styles. Two and a half blocks of this area were cleared for the construction of I-5 back in the 1960's.


Piedmont is well-positioned for transit access being so close to I-5, the MAX yellow line, and also major bus routes on NE MLK Jr Blvd, N Ainsworth, and N Rosa Parks Blvd. 

While there are no schools located within the Piedmont neighborhood boundary, there are ample schools in surrounding neighborhoods including Woodlawn Elementary (Woodlawn neighborhood), Chief Joseph Elementary (Arbor Lodge neighborhood), and Vernon Elementary (Vernon neighborhood), Ockley Green Middle School (Arbor Lodge neighborhood), Martin Luther King Junior School (King neighborhood) serving K-8 students, and Jefferson High School (King neighborhood). 

Points of Interest

Peninsula Park at the southern end of Piedmont is a beautiful, well-trafficked 17-acre park with basketball and tennis courts, a soccer field, a splash pad, reservable picnic areas and a rose garden and bandstand available for wedding rentals. Formerly a roadhouse and racetrack for quarter-mile horse racing, the land for the park was purchased by the city in 1909. Architects Ellis Lawrence and Ormond R. Bean designed the park in 1912 as part of Portland's City Beautiful Movement

The rose garden in Peninsula Park was developed by Emanuel L Mische and was visited by over 300,000 people in its first year. Portland's official rose was cultivated in the garden and was then planted by the thousands along Portland's streets; this is how Portland became known as "The City of Roses". This was the main rose garden until the development of the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park in 1917. The garden is maintained by volunteers through the Friends of Peninsula Park Rose Garden and they welcome experienced and amateur gardeners alike.

Peninsula Park Community Center is the first and oldest community center in the Portland parks system. Constructed in 1913, the building was inspired by an Italian villa and included a pool in the design largely as a response to the closure of bath houses along the Willamette River due to increased pollution. The community center has become an important fixture in the neighborhood with programs for kids, families and seniors in athletics and the arts. 

Farragut Park is an open and airy park at the northern end of the Piedmont neighborhood. Its fourteen acres includes basketball courts, playgrounds, and picnic tables.  


Piedmont's developers were intent on creating a strictly residential community and they were largely successful in that there are few businesses within the neighborhood's boundaries. Adjacent neighborhoods however, are teeming with wonderful restaurants, bars, shops and resources–many within walking distance. Immediately south of Piedmont is Portland Community College's Cascade Campus. Surrounding the campus are a number of vibrant local businesses along the NE Killingsworth commercial corridor ranging from Ethos Music School–a non-profit providing music lessons, group classes, and camp experiences to young Oregonians across the socio-economic spectrum–to the North Portland Public Library, and tap room and restaurant Saraveza.

The popular Mississippi neighborhood is not a far walk from the southern edge of Piedmont. If you walk along Albina there are many opportunities for a delightful pit stop like getting a slice of pie and cup of tea at Sweedeedee, perusing sundry items at Tanner Goods before heading to their adjacent bar The Wayback for a frosty pint, or settling in at Locale for an aperitif–they have an incredible selection of amaro and vermouth.

Just east of Piedmont is the Woodlawn neighborhood with a collection of local businesses clustered along Dekum Blvd. Head to the farmers' market on Saturday mornings (late May-late October) and grab a pastry and coffee at Woodlawn Coffee and Pastry. Later in the afternoon walk or ride your bike over to Breakside Brewing or Grand Army Tavern for locally-sourced New American food and delicious drinks. Family-friendly, and slightly more formal, Firehouse restaurant has been an anchor in the neighborhood, opening over a decade ago and continuing to serve delicious hearty fare including a great seafood selection and wood fired pizza.