Kenton Holds History and a Highly Walkable Business District to Check Out

See the swifts without the crowds, or grab a proper tea in outer space.

Emperor Georgiou's Tea Room (Chris Nesseth)

High up on the northern edge of the city, you’ve got Kenton. Originally a company town for the meat-packing Swift & Co., today the neighborhood is a highly walkable, highly charming bit of the city, with loads of stores in the historic business district (yep—that’s a big ol’ 31-foot-tall Paul Bunyan statue you’ve spotted), wetlands and parks, and a few local stops listed below that’ll make folks feel right at home. RB.

An Outer Galactic Tea Time

There is no shortage of places around town to grab a nice cup of tea, but after spending a leisurely morning enjoying a pot of Earl Grey and a delicious toasted banana drop scone in a Star Trek-themed cafe, why would I want to spend my money anywhere else? Having a working knowledge of the sci-fi franchise that inspired Emperor Georgiou’s Tea Room (8237 N Denver Ave., 503-567-7888, isn’t necessary to enjoy a proper tea service at this cozy spot with lush blue furniture, but it does help explain how it quickly became a weekend hot spot since opening in 2022. Trekkies from all over have made it a key stop of their Portland vacations, many dressing the part in Federation uniforms and other cosplay gear. In other words, don’t hesitate to make a reservation to secure your spot at this little dilithium crystal in the heart of the Kenton District. ROBERT HAM.

The New Strip

Looking to spend some time in Kenton? Might I recommend making sure you have plenty of time to kill and heading right for The Denver Strip (North Denver Avenue). These two bustling city blocks are chock-full of fantastic shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as one of the best Multnomah County library branches. A suggestion: Start off with a coffee and a pastry at Posies Cafe (8208 N Denver Ave.), slip over to Give and Take (8128 N Denver Ave.) for a little vintage shopping, head across the way to Po’Shines Cafe De La Soul (8139 N Denver Ave.) for a delicious Creole lunch, head back for a leisurely browse in the racks at Speck’s Records & Tapes (8216 N Denver Ave.), then close it all out with a nice meal and a pint at Kenton Station Restaurant & Pub (8303 N Denver Ave.). Carve out some time, dive in, and explore. There are no wrong answers. RH.

For the Real Swifties

The experience of watching thousands of Vaux’s swifts swarming into the chimney attached to Chapman Elementary in Northwest Portland each September evening as part of their migratory route can be visually awe inspiring but logistically awful as you jockey for viewing space with a few hundred other Portlanders. To get a taste of the action free of nearly all the accompanying hassles, head to North Schofield Street and Denver Avenue in Kenton and find the tall yellow chimney atop one of the buildings owned by Mackin’s Auto Body (8026 N Denver Ave.). Swifts are, even now, posting up there in the evenings—in much smaller numbers than what you get at Chapman, but with no less avian derring-do as they dive into the chimney at maximum velocity at sunset. It’s all the majesty with none of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd around to ruin the fun. RH.

Home Fixin’s

Tool libraries are one of the best community resources this world has to offer, saving folks the potentially massive expense and inconvenience that comes with purchasing equipment for landscaping and construction work that they may only ever use once. One of the best and most comprehensive of these libraries can be found in Kenton, tucked away in the historic firehouse on North Schofield Street. The North Portland Tool Library (2209 N Schofield St., 503-823-0209, has fairly limited hours (10 am–2 pm Saturday), but the selection of tools and equipment is vast and kept up well by a super-friendly, engaging staff of volunteers who also know most everyone who visits by name and seems to know what they need before they do. RH.

History Lesson

Lest any visitors or new residents of Kenton forget, the North Portland neighborhood was once at the heart of Vanport, a small town built in the 1940s to house shipyard workers and veterans of World War II—the bulk of them African American. Though the town was wiped off the map in 1948 due to a massive flood, its legacy has remained thanks to the efforts of Vanport Mosaic (, a nonprofit that collects stories, photo evidence, and ephemera from the families of former residents and organizes tours and gatherings to teach the history of this once vital hub of activity and culture. Its annual festival runs through June 1. Or hit up this year’s Vanport Jazz Festival ( the first weekend of August, an event that honors the area’s legacy as a center for Black art. This year, the festival welcomes back local hero Esperanza Spalding as well as internationally renowned artists Najee and Patrice Rushen. RH.

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