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McMenamin's Kennedy School

Portland, Oregon
Sept. 28, 2002

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They've really done something fantastic with an old elementary school up in Portland. The McMenamin Brothers, which locals tell us have done similar things to old pubs and theaters, have rescued and restored a Progressive-era school and brought it to life with a hotel, restaurant, bars, theater, meetings, high school reunions -- all in an environment that blends classic education architecture with funky and fun art. We found the only empty space in its crowded parking lot at 8pm Friday, checked into our room (Jack's Room, half of an old classroom with blackboards still in tact and amazing molding!), and immersed ourselves into the crowds of happy and hip Portlandians at the Courtyard Restaurant. In the morning we warmed our bones in the soaking pool that sits off the old teachers lounge.

"Old elementary school" really doesn't do justice to it at all: the thing was (and is) a temple to education, and perhaps the only thing that spoils the experience of staying there is the nagging sense of loss you have when you realize how much Americans once valued their educational institutions, how much pride they took in them -- and how different it must have been for a child to walk into that building, and sit in a classroom with 13-foot ceilings and windows all the way up, as opposed to sitting in a windowless, modular building.