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Fling Preview: McMenamins Kennedy School

Since its 1915 opening, this historic elementary school has been a beloved fixture of its NE Portland neighborhood. Shuttered by the school district in ’75 (due to declining enrollment and age of the building) McMenamins launched its renovation in the spring of 1997, infusing the 80-year-old structure with new life, and reopened Kennedy School in October 1997. Now it’s OK to sleep in class and smoke in Detention, a unique and fun lodging, dining and meeting experience.

The property had very little growing on it before McMenamins began creating a garden. The plants could almost be counted on 2 hands: 4 Maples (2 Norway and 3 Bigleaf), 3 Western Red Cedars, 1 Douglas Fir, 2 Japanese holly, 1 Rhododendron sp., 2 ancient and near dead Kwanzan Cherry.

The most mature “new” shrubs and trees were planted in 1997 and 1998 with layer after layer of new garden space or paved space (courtyard, bike rack, etc.) added bit-by-bit at the expense of existing lawns. A second driveway into the parking lot was removed and converted to a xeric planting in 2009.

A new hotel wing and surrounding garden space (including a roof-runoff collection swale) was completed in late 2012.

The edible plant collection continues to expand, but diversity in a small space is the goal. McMenamins gardens, not just at the Kennedy School, but Edgefield, Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, Grand Lodge, Rock Creek Tavern, Anderson School (soon), and Wilsonville, to name a few, are meant to inspire, entertain, soothe, nourish, and embrace everyone who visits them!

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