(Not to be confused with Mt. Scott, a 1,091-foot-high volcanic cinder cone in Clackamas County.)
When I first moved to Portland about a decade and a half ago, I was told to stay away from this area. People called it Felony Flats. A lot of the yards had pit bulls chained up in them, next to the carcasses of dead cars and appliances.
Oh how things change.
It’s still one of the more affordable neighborhoods in the city, but according to Portland Monthly the median home price is now $384,999. Felony Estates, more like.
It’s the area between SE 52nd and SE 82nd, north of Woodstock and south of Foster. (Cool fact: Foster Road was named for Philip Foster, who owned a trading post near Estacada in the late 1800s and was married to Mary Charlotte Pettygrove. Another cool fact: Foster Road was built on top of the northern fork of the Oregon Trail.)
The centerpiece of the Mt. Scott Park neighborhood is… wait for it… Mt. Scott Park. It’s a quiet, family-friendly park (which is code for homeless people tend not to camp out in it and I can let my kids run loose there because there aren’t any places for creepy people to hide). Just about every weekend there’s a birthday or graduation or something being celebrated in one of the picnic areas. A couple of years ago, the World Naked Bike Ride started in the park. So yeah, totally wholesome.
Okay, I lied. The Mt. Scott Community Center is the centerpiece of the neighborhood. It’s adjacent to or maybe in the park and has two swimming pools –– one that’s great for lap swimming and water aerobics and the other that’s built just for kids, with a slide, whirlpool, buckets that splash water on top of you, and a wading area that’s graaaaaaaadually gets deeper and deeper until the water comes all the way up to your knee.
There’s even a hot tub that always seems to have people from all over the world in it. (The neighborhood has a pretty substantial Russian population, as well as Mexican and Vietnamese. It’s a veritable melting pot. The neighborhood, not the hot tub, because that would be ew.)
In addition to the pools, the community center has a basketball court, a gym, meeting rooms, and a skating rink. For real. A skating rink with wood floors and posts which I know from first-hand experience are placed perfectly for you to run into when you’re trying to teach your kid how to skate and not paying close attention to where you’re going.
Someone told me that in the old days, the Mt. Scott Trolley ran from downtown Portland up to the town of Lents and no, I have no idea why it was called the Mt. Scott Trolley, but because that was the name of the line, that became the name of the park.
I was also told that the Arleta Triangle, a weird orphan of land that’s cut off form the southwest corner of the park at SE 72nd and Woodstock, came about because trolley tracks were laid to cut the corner of the park, leaving a little triangle of land all sad and lonely out there in the middle of the intersection. It sounds convincing, but according to the 1943 Trolley route map I dug up, the trolley didn’t go anywhere near that corner. And also, it wasn’t called the Mt. Scott Trolley.
Speaking of things that are named for what they aren’t, across the street from the park is the Arleta Library, which isn’t a library, but a breakfast place that got famous because some TV chef ate there once. It’s good, but good enough to wait in line to get in? Yeah, actually it is.
Next door to the Arleta Library is Space Monkey Coffee where I have a secret crush on a barista named Amy. If you go there, tell her hi for me.
Okay, I lied. The centerpiece of the neighborhood is the Portland Mercado at SE 72nd and Foster. It’s a collection of Hispanic food carts –– everything from Colombian to Peruvian to Oaxacan to Cuban –– plus a tiendita for groceries, a carniceria for meats, a cafeteria for coffee, and a bar.
You know what? For real, the centerpiece of the neighborhood is Milo, the Best Puppy Ever™. He lives across the street from the park and loves to invite neighborhood dogs into his yard for play dates. If he’s not out by the gate when you come by, ring his doorbell on the little free library and he’ll come out. Unless he’s gone to work with his dad. The realtor. The one who writes awesome blogs about Portland neighborhoods.