Exploring the Cully Neighborhood / by Chris Bonner

Cully is named for Thomas Cully, an Englishman who settled on a 640 acre land claim in 1845. He was not the first settler in the area we now know as the Cully neighborhood, this land was the site of a long-standing native (Chinook) village called Neerchokikoo. A few years after Cully arrived and settled, he enlisted to fight in the Cayuse Indian War. He was awarded for his service with an additional 160 acres of land in Portland.

The neighborhood maintained a rural residential feel with industry cropping up along Columbia Boulevard, including Boulevard Dairy that bottled and delivered milk to neighborhood residents. There were also a couple communal canneries where residents could bring fruits and vegetables from their gardens for more efficient canning with larger equipment than they would have in their home kitchens. The last cannery, Cornell Custom Canning on NE 82nd Ave, shut down in 1994. 

Cully was an unincorporated area of Multnomah County until 1985 when it was annexed by the City of Portland. The development of infrastructure and services lagged behind the city of Portland. Seeing a need, a group of non-profit organizations–Verde, Hacienda CDC, Naya and Habitat for Humanity–collaborated to form Living Cully. The organizations that formed Living Cully understood that investment would come to the neighborhood and bring with it a risk of displacement. Together, they have focused on increasing job opportunities and building earnings for residents and neighborhood small businesses, providing opportunities for engagement, collective action and cultural expression, expanding safe, high-quality affordable housing in the neighborhood, increasing natural and built investment including parks, trails and healthy housing, and to working to ensure low levels of involuntary displacement from the neighborhood.


Cully residents have good access to the I-205 freeway via Highway 30 and also I-84 to the south. The neighborhood is largely serviced by the 72 bus line which can connect riders to the Max transit hub at 82nd & Halsey. Portland International Airport is a short drive north.

Rigler Elementary School and Scott School are both within the Cully neighborhood boundary at different points along NE Prescott. Beaumont Middle School is the closest public middle school on NE Fremont. Grant High School, in the Grant Park neighborhood, and James Madison High School, in the Madison South neighborhood, are the closest public high schools.

Points of Interest

Thomas Cully Park is a testament to the character and commitment of Cully residents. The 25-acre site at the northern edge of the neighborhood between Highway 30 and Columbia Boulevard is gradually becoming home to a robust community garden, a native gathering garden where plants for native ceremony and crafts like basketweaving will be cultivated, a play area, and some native plant habitat restoration with elevated viewing platforms to provide views of the Cascade mountains (Mt Hood, Mt Saint Helens, Mt Adams, and Mt Rainier). The city of Portland acquired this tract of land, a former landfill, in 2000 and set the intention to transform it into greenspace to serve the Cully neighborhood, one of Portland's historically underserved areas for parks. 

In 2008 a master plan for the park had been completed but Portland Parks & Recreation (PPR) did not have the funds to complete the project. At this point Verde, a Cully-based non-profit, stepped up and proposed that PPR enter into a public-private partnership with them; this type of partnership allowed Verde to fundraise for, design and construct Cully Park. Since the development of that partnership, the project has engaged community members in all phases of development including students from local elementary schools who had input on the design of the play area. The community garden opened in 2012 and other areas of the park are estimated to open later this year. 

There are a couple smaller parts in the neighborhood too. Sacajawea Park at NE 75th and NE Roselawn is a nice 4.85 acre grassy area with big trees and an off-leash dog area. And Khunamokwst Park is another small greenspace located at NE Alberta and NE 52nd. Although Khunamokwst is smaller than Sacajawea it has a few more amenities like picnic tables, a play area, a seasonal splash pad, skatepark, and restrooms. 


Most of the commercial activity in Cully is along NE 42nd Ave, and the small section of NE Fremont that falls within the neighborhood. NE 42nd Avenue is a wonderful place to spend a fully day eating and wandering. Start at Old Salt Marketplace for a hearty breakfast before you amble over to the Cully Farmer's Market. Wander north along 42nd to Hey Studio, a ceramics studio with both private and communal spaces for creating functional an artistic works with clay. Heading south along 42nd you will run into Portland Bloem where you can wander amidst indoor and outdoor plants, dreaming about landscaping your future home. Keep going south until you get to NE Prescott and take a left to go east for just a half a block or so until you find Metalwood Salvage where you'll find salvaged raw materials along with one-of-a-kind furniture, fixtures and art pieces. If you are still around in the evening, hit up the Spare Room Restaurant & Lounge for karaoke or live music depending on the day of the week.

Visit the Cully stretch of NE Fremont first thing in the morning at Pip's Original where they make fresh donuts daily and offer a variety of chai teas. Continue east along Fremont and then head north on Cully to visit Bison Coffeehouse where Native American owner Loretta Guzman owner brews Heart coffee and beans from Native American roasters around the country. If you continue along Cully you will arrive at the most recent, warm and welcoming addition to the neighborhood dining scene: Beeswing. Serving brunch straight on through to dinner, they are offering a bright and friendly spot with food that everyone wants to eat, made with locally sourced ingredients; it's the perfect start or finish to any day in Cully.