Laurelhurst / by Chris Bonner

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In March of this year, the Laurelhurst neighborhood was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. Eligibility for this type of designation requires that most buildings within the district maintain their historic appearance and the area must also be associated with some aspect of the area’s history and/or notable for its architecture or design. Laurelhurst is illustrative of Portland’s City Beautiful era-planning principles and its representation of popular trends in U.S. architecture of the 1910s and 1940s. Local government now has the authority to create additional protections and to review proposals to relocate or demolish properties within the boundaries of the designated area (see map here).

The land of the Laurelhurst neighborhood was originally owned by that most prominent of Portland pioneers, William S. Ladd, who bought up the area in a series of purchases in the 1860's and 70's.  Under Ladd's ownership, the land was turned into the Hazel Fern Farm and was mainly agricultural. After Ladd's death in 1893, however, the property was deeded to Ladd's son, who formed the Ladd Investment Company and eventually sold the 462-acre farm to the Laurelhurst Company for two million smackers in 1909.  The neighborhood was meant to be exclusively high class, with no apartments or commercial buildings allowed and a minimum value set for houses built there. Don't worry, though – the stately homes and bungalows may remain, but the elitist attitude has disappeared since those early days.


Straddling Northeast and Southeast Portland, Laurelhurst stretches from SE Stark up to I-84 in the NE, and from 32nd to 44th Avenues, east to west, making it a great, central location on the east side of the city.  It's bordered by the Kerns, Sullivan's Gulch, North Tabor, Hollywood, and Sunnyside neighborhoods, which provide many eating and shopping options in close distance – an important feature, as Laurelhurst itself is mainly residential.

There is just one elementary school within the neighborhood boundary, Laurelhurst School (K-8), but there are a couple others nearby, Beverly Cleary School (K-8), and Glencoe Elementary (K-5). If you are looking for a dedicated middle school, Mt Tabor Middle School is just to the southeast of the neighborhood. The neighborhood doesn’t have its own high school, but Grant High School is just outside the boundary in Hollywood.

points of interest

Laurelhurst features an atypical street design, with curvy roads winding around a central traffic circle.  You can't miss the gilded statue of Joan of Arc as you drive around; she was a gift from Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, who donated the statue in 1924 and gave Coe Circle its name.  

And then there's Laurelhurst Park, where you will find a horseshoe pit, basketball and tennis courts, huge trees, cute dogs galore, circles of hippies hula hooping, musicians practicing their instruments, and the famous duck pond, a one-time watering hole for cattle and swimming hole for the less bovine. The park has been around since 1912, and in 1919 the Pacific Coast Parks Association named it the most beautiful park on the west coast. Decades later, in 2001, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places (nearly 20 years ahead of the rest of the neighborhood), making it the first city park ever to make the register. Not too shabby!


So what to do when you're not picnicking in the park? There's not much more than houses in Laurelhurst, but there's plenty going on just outside it, within a few minutes' walk or bike ride.  Along the southern edge you'll find more than a thousand different beers at Belmont Station (yes, really!), and you can easily hop over to the Portland Nursery for all your plant and gardening needs.  The shops and restaurants along 28th Ave, aptly dubbed “Restaurant Row”, just north and south of Burnside, offer tons of entertainment options, such as the Laurelhurst Theater (opened in 1923, and providing $9 movies and beer for the last 10 years), and Migration Brewing and LaurelThirst Public House are located on Glisan St, just west of the Laurelhurst boundary. Laurelhurst Market, opened in 2009, now has transitioned from ingenue to old standby and is still the only butcher shop-cum-deli-cum-restaurant-cum-bar in town and it’s conveniently situated right on the corner of Burnside and 32nd. And if all that's not enough, it's only a short jaunt across the river to downtown, whether you're on a bike or in a car.

A beautiful residential neighborhood with lots of history and great homes – that's Laurelhurst!  Check it out now!