It was my fella’s birthday this past week–to celebrate his birthday, we made our way down to two McMenamins locations: the Kennedy School and Edgefield. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the greatness that is McMenamins, it is a family-owned chain of breweries, music venues, little theaters and pubs settled into beautiful historic buildings in various locations throughout the Pacific Northwest. The McMenamins brothers, Mike and Brian, started this venture in 1974, when they opened their first restaurant and craft beer bar known as Produce Row Cafe. Presently, the McMenamins name has a whopping 54 different locations, all with their own personalities, quirks and loveliness.
The weekend had ominous grey clouds lingering the entire time, threatening to downpour at any moment. Thankfully, whenever we were out and about, we were faced with a light drizzle. Despite the uncertain weather, each location was still a sight to behold. Even before we entered the Kennedy School, our first stop, I had already informed Jake that we most definitely have to come back in the summer time.
Look at those lights! They were everywhere in this place, and damn, were they absolutely charming!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to snap any awesome photos of the Kennedy School outside–you’ll have to stick around for the summer time when I manage to go back and give an update. But hey, I got some nifty shots of the inside before we were too exhausted to do anything else except laze about in our room. Speaking of which… Check out the headboard in our room!
We stayed in this room that brought me back to my high school years when I had read The Crucible by Arthur Miller. (Did you ever have to read that? We read it, then watched the movie in class–that was my first exposure to Daniel Day Lewis ever!) The shape of this headboard is rad as hell, but the blurb across the wall by the sink (which was outside of the restroom, by the way) enlightened me on the “sporting activities” the Puritans did engage in. An early version of putt putt golf was depicted as one of the very few activities Puritans could enjoy, probably next to making butter. Though I imagine they didn’t have any cool traps or giant animals to swallow up their ball and shoot it out of their ass somewhere near the hole. That would’ve been so sinful…
Enough about Puritanical prudeness though–that’s not why we’re here. Let’s talk about the Kennedy School’s history. Formerly John D. Kennedy Elementary School (it’s not supposed to be JFK–the D’s for Daniel. JDK sold the land to the Portland School District in 1913), the McMenamins brothers converted this humongous campus into a 35 guestroom hotel, brewery, theater, restaurant and four different bars, all in one location! JDK Elementary, before its McMenamins conversion, also served as the community’s public meeting hall, polling place, blood drawing location, collection site for paper and tin, and a flood relief shelter. The school prospered for some time, up until the ’74-’75 school year when the school district decided to shut it down due to its age, crumbling structure and declining student enrollment. It wasn’t until 1997 when McMenamins took over, renovated the building and added warm-hearted touches to the 80-year-old school that are still present today. Murals and old photographs are present all over the interior of the building, commemorating the events, faculty and students that once occupied its halls.
We were pretty bushed after arriving at the Kennedy School. At least, I was, after the nearly two hour drive and being mesmerized by the structural beauty that was the school. After checking in and dropping our bags off in our room, we made for the Courtyard Restaurant where I was able to try the first beer I have ever liked!
Now… I have never been a beer fan. Sours are pretty much the only thing I’m game for, and even then, I drink those very sparingly. But that beer in my hands there… I didn’t make a face, I didn’t proclaim how gross it tasted… it was actually tasty to me. This is the Ruby Ale, a fruit beer created by McMenamins. The label of this beer has a cool witch lady on it, which was inspired by Germanic folklore of “kitchen witches,” who bring good luck. I don’t know about you, but I love cute witchy things and good luck–this beer and I are a match made in heaven.
After staying the night at the Kennedy School, I was itching to scope out Edgefield. The Kennedy School was rockin’, but Edgefield? Edgefield was even more awesome.
Let’s flashback to the 1910s. The Multnomah County Poor Farm was established by the City of Portland as “poor farm property.” Reader, you’re probably wondering the same thing as me when I had heard “poor farm” for the first time–what the hell is that? One could draw some conclusions from the name itself, but there’s more to it. Poor farms were country or town run places where folks of very low economic status, who were still able to work and needed a place to stay, would reside at poor farms–essentially engaging in hard labor for food and shelter. These poor farms came about when legislature gave each county the responsibility of caring for their “paupers.”
Multnomah County Poor Farm circa 1912. Obviously, quite a few changes had occurred in terms of the property’s structure, but it still has its own antiquated personality intact. Photo Credit
In the 1980’s, the farm became abandoned. It wasn’t until 1990 when McMenamins scooped up the property and turned it into the impressive hotel, venue, pub, theater, bars (!), pool hall, winery, distillery, restaurant (adorably named The Black Rabbit), spa and salon that it is today.
You guys, they have a decently sized library there too!
I couldn’t resist visiting the Tea House Bar. That itty bitty shack there had not only herbal and fruity tea infused cocktails, but sold delicious lemon hibiscus bars! YUM!
This little building, The Black Rabbit Bar, won my heart over. So cute!
I’ve also come to realize that the McMenamins establishments have this charming quirkiness to it that I’m absolutely attracted to, hands down. If I could have my house decorated in a McMenamins style + Wes Anderson style + midcentury style, I’d be pretty stoked. But there were some things that just creeped me out a little… Just a little bit.
I saw this mural from a distance and was a little taken aback by these women’s stares…
And don’t even get me started on the spooky face in the bathroom, right above the toilet…
There was still so much of the property we weren’t able to check out during our short stay at Edgefield. But as I had mentioned, I was already plotting when we should go back–when the weather is much nicer. Jake was also feeling the bitter sting of forgetfulness since he had accidentally left his McMenamins Passport at home.
What’s a McMenamins Passport, you ask? Why, it’s a way to score McMenamins swag! Like I said earlier, there are currently 54 McMenamins locations and counting–each place has a bunch of activities you can do, most of which you can earn a stamp for. By collecting stamps in your passport, you earn all kinds of free goodies like burgers, appetizers, gift cards, pint glasses, growlers, shirts, concert tickets, overnight stays and more! And if you fill the whole passport, you get a grand prize: even more free stuff and an exclusive invitation to the next “Cosmic Tripster Party.” Fuck yeah! According to one of the bartenders I spoke to when I purchased my passport, the party is no joke–it is an absolute blast where you get even more swag, music and just an amazing, fun experience. If you want more information on the McMenamins Passport, I recommend checking out their site!
This was my first real exposure to the awesomeness that is the quirky, whimsical, antique-meets-modern McMenamins empire–color me impressed! We have a McMenamins restaurant super close to where I live, but the Kennedy School and Edgefield opened up a whole new perspective for me. We’re already looking forward to going back in the summer!