Plenty of Portlanders are proud of their neighborhoods, but when it comes to community spirit, St. Johns is in a class of its own. Intimate, tucked back and boasting a bustling downtown some locals call “The Village,” this neighborhood operates more like its own little town — which indeed it was, briefly, from 1902 to 1915, before being annexed to Portland proper. A walkable, family-oriented atmosphere, a profusion of parks and a roster of beloved annual events, including a parade and jazz festival, round out the neighborhood fun.
Located at the peninsular meeting point of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, St. Johns sits at the doorstep of natural wonders galore, including acres of nearby explorable sloughs and wetlands. Sauvie Island is just a hop away, and the sprawling, square-mile Cathedral Park, situated just beneath our city’s only true suspension bridge, offers rolling acres of green grass and a tiny, kid-friendly beach, perfect for launching a kayak or paddleboard.
Local families also gather at the St. Johns Park playground and sing the praises of Pier Park, which stays dryish throughout the year thanks to a thick, healthy tree canopy — a godsend in the age of COVID.
St. Johns families can’t get enough of Slim’s Cocktail Bar & Restaurant, a recently revamped century-old lounge where the fare is affordable and surprisingly delicious and kids are welcome. Other culinary favorites include the blueberry-beet muffins from The Sparrow Bakery, fish-and-chips at the St. Johns Food and Beer Porch, tacos at Tienda Santa Cruz, and hazelnut-and-strawberry pancakes at John Street Café. StormBreaker St. Johns brewery, which features a large covered and heated patio, is also proving a popular neighborhood gathering spot during the pandemic.
“I always wanted to live in St. Johns,” says resident Natalie Schraner. “I used to come [here] when I was a kid. My dad would buy work clothes at Jower’s — an old men’s boot shop — then we’d have a burger somewhere …. It seemed like its own self-sufficient town.”
Today, she and her wife, Kala Schraner, are happily raising their two girls — Vesper, 2 ½, and Navy, 6 months. Gentrification has dramatically reshaped North Portland since her girlhood excursions to the peninsula, but Schraner and her neighbors remain committed to preserving this historic neighborhood’s diverse and welcoming vibe. “St. Johns is the people’s village, where blue-collared roots run deep,” she says. “We have fierce conversations about gentrification — and who lit the latest bottle rocket.”
$450,000 Median home price
$1,500 Average rent
Sources: redfin and zumper