I'm writing this from Canon Beach amidst a short getaway, and on the drive out here on Highway 26 yesterday I happened to notice a couple signs for McMenamins pub franchises: one in Hillsboro, one in Forest Grove. And of course there are others in McMinnville, Corvallis, Gresham and numerous ones in Portland.
To be honest, I almost never go in McMenamins franchises. I've always found the food to be pretty mediocre, and the pseudo-hippy vibe isn't my thing. But I got thinking recently about how the collection of buildings the McMenamin brothers have renovated and transformed over the years may be the closest thing there is to quintessential Portland architecture. Whether it's the Kennedy School, the Baghdad, or the funeral home they're preparing for a new pub on Killingsworth, these renovated structures are infused with life and become vibrant community gathering spaces. And in many cases, they're in historic buildings that might otherwise see the wrecking ball. (Too bad they can't open a hotel or something in the Rosefriend Apartments.)
Incidentally, the other day I was on North Mississippi with a friend having coffee at Blue Gardenia and had a similar thought about the Rebuilding Center, with its patchwork quilt of used windows and siding. Here, as with the McMenamins buildings, there's a kind of blue-collar grit combined with a sense of playfulness that just seems very Portland.
So often we - and especially yours truly - get hung up on whatever the new buidings may be: condos, offices, maybe occasionally a public building. These little buildings in the neighborhoods and small towns are something maybe less impressive in terms of scale, but there is a life to them that a modern condo likely either will never have or will take a or will take a lot of time to aquire. You don't have to order a Terminator Stout or be into the hippy vibe to appreciate that the McMenamins are doing something very precious.