A search for affordable rent and room to roam lands one Portland family in a lesser-known North Portland waterfront enclave.   

Mount Hood views and Columbia River breezes — welcome to Bridgeton, the most charming Portland neighborhood you’ve never heard of.

“It really is idyllic in so many ways,” says 33-year-old Rebekah Sapp, who rents a home in the quiet North Portland waterfront enclave with her partner, Josh Heide, and their 3-year-old daughter, Piper.

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Bridgeton sits on a thin spit of land along the North Portland Harbor channel — about as far north as you can get in Portland before ending up in the water. A century ago, it was a bustling fishing and farming community. Today, it’s an eclectic micro-neighborhood of around 300 floating homes, rowhouses, freestanding homes, apartments and condos, often referred to as Portland’s smallest neighborhood. Kids from Bridgeton attend Faubion K-8 School, which has a brand-new campus and a close partnership with nearby Concordia University.

Rebekah loves the close-knit vibe: “I’ll meet neighbors on our walks and they’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re the house with the big black dog.’ There’s a smaller community feeling for sure, and it’s weird because I always wanted to live in a big city — or at least I thought I did.”

The Sapp-Heide family relocated to Portland from Eugene in summer 2013. They considered buying, but opted to rent based on the oversaturated housing market.

Finding a decent rental proved trickier still, even though Josh was already working in Portland and could scour listings in person. When he sent Rebekah a picture of a small fenced house on the waterfront in a neighborhood they’d never heard of, she was sold.

By then, her wish list was whittled to the bare essentials: “It was like, cross that off, cross that off,” Rebekah recalls. “My only two prerequisites at that point were a fenced yard for [our dog] Jackson and a washer-dryer. I told Josh, ‘Go see it, write ’em a check! Unless it really sucks on the inside, write a check!’”

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He did, and they’ve been in Bridgeton ever since, joined by Piper in 2016.

These days, Rebekah, Piper and Jackson can often be spotted strolling the neighborhood’s main waterfront drag, headed for the nearby fields and paths where Piper loves collecting rocks and pinecones. They’ve got prime views of Vancouver’s fireworks display each July and of the Portland Christmas Ships Parade each December.

The community skews older, and there’s not much to walk to beyond the neighborhood proper, (and public transportation options are a bit lacking, with the nearest bus stop a mile away) but as the Portland metro area grows, so, too, does this hidden-away hamlet.

“It’s definitely gotten a little busier as the years have gone by,” says Rebekah. “But not super busy. You can see the freeway, but you can’t hear it from where we’re at. You hear birds chirping, fighting outside in the hydrangea. There’s not much to complain about overall.”

Life here also has its professional perks: Rebekah runs an Etsy shop specializing in distressed denim (find it at etsy.com/shop/HarperJettDenim), and her yard doubles as an outdoor fabric-processing space. “I’m probably known as the crazy denim lady,” she laughs.

She also runs Harper Breeze Photography (Check out her work at harperbreezephotography.com), named for their first daughter, who passed away shortly before their move to town in 2013.

Bridgeton’s scenic vistas provide an uncommon backdrop for outdoor portraits, framed by the natural beauty of a lesser-trodden corner of Portland.

Rebekah vividly recalls standing alone in her home-office not long after they first moved in, gazing out at the water and sensing Harper’s presence so strongly. She took it as a sign: this place was the right place.

Six years on, Piper seems to agree: “She always talks about how much she loves her home,” Rebekah says. “She’ll say, ‘I just want my home.’ And then, as soon as we turn onto Bridgeton [Road], she says, ‘We’re home now!’”

Erin Bernard
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