Unique Oregon Hotels built from school and tree houses

Kaylynn Wohl, Reporter, Puma Press

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It was a typical rainy night in a Northeast Portland neighborhood. With spring in the air, trees bloomed with various colorful flowers. Children and their families were dressed in raincoats and umbrellas, all gathering at the same place: McMenamins Kennedy School. It just so happened to be St. Patrick’s day when my mother and I arrived at our hotel for the next few evenings. We initially felt out of place due to this unordinary setting; we were in an old school house that had been renovated into a hotel.

Last spring, I went on a week-long mother-daughter trip to the most verdant state I have ever seen: Oregon. With our nonconformist mindset, we made it a priority to stay at hotels and resorts that had originality and creativity, unlike chain or franchised hotels. This included a few family-owned businesses that are unique and affordable.

McMenamins Kennedy School

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Photo by Kaylynn Wohl

In 1915, the building was an elementary schoolhouse that also served the surrounding community as a public meeting hall, polling location, blood drawing center, weekend playground, and even as a flood-relief shelter. However, years later in 1975, school officials claimed the building to be too old to be repaired, and it was shut down. Fortunately, two men, Mike and Brian McMenamin, renovated the building, reopening it in 1997 but with the twist of it’s being a school-themed hotel with its own brewery.

Through the doors, the very first thing we noticed was the giant chalkboard on the wall that greeted us in colorful chalk. The hotel provides a variety of chalks and erasers to encourage guests to write and draw on the rooms’ chalkboards. Our room even had an old desk and classroom chair. On the desk were several fat pencils that small children learn to write with. My mom immediately noticed the giant painting on the headboard of the bed: a singing man who was part wizard, part tree.

After settling into our room, I went exploring, full of wonder at this interesting place. It was late at night and the gloomy halls gave off an eerie vibe. “Children and old buildings are creepy enough as is,” I thought. The rain poured and pitter-pattered against the windows, leaving a cold, soft hum throughout the building. I eventually found myself at the hotel’s “soaking pool.” Located in a private courtyard, which used to be the old Teacher’s Lounge, this beautiful ceramic tiled pool peacefully sits at the center of a luscious garden. The pool is open to the general public for only $5, and guests can enjoy it free as a part of their overnight stay.

My favorite feature of McMenamins Kennedy School would have to be its movie theater. Very few hotels have this unique luxury. This hotel not only has a variety of feature films playing throughout the day and night, but guests can get comfy on old sofas, funky looking loveseats and armchairs. Instead of sitting in an uncomfortable, semi-reclining movie theater chair, guests can enjoy their traditional theater snacks while curled up on the couch with loved ones. It’s like Netflix but way better. Similar to most movie theaters, it tends to get a little chilly inside, so a blanket is both recommended and encouraged.

Out ‘n’ About Treehouse Treesort

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Photo by Kaylynn Wohl

With a scenic Oregon coast drive and the Redwood Forest in our minds, my mom and I made our way to Cave Junction, just north of the California border. After driving down a few dirt roads, we arrived at what seemed like the middle of nowhere. Here lies a family operated treehouse resort; a true bed and breakfast up in the trees. Similar to an Ewok Village in Star Wars, Out ‘n’ About Treehouse Treesort is carefully tucked away in the beautiful Oregon countryside. We were offered a variety of types and sizes of treehouses for decent costs; there was even a yurt (similar to a teepee, or as they call it, a treepee-style “treehouse,” called a Yurtree, that accommodates a family of seven. My mother and I chose a smaller one called the Peacock Perch for $150 a night. It had a lovely peacock carved and painted on the door and a colorful glass stained window right next to it. When I walked in, I was shocked at how much the owners were able to do with the space. We were essentially 20 feet off the ground, in their fifth highest treehouse; inside was a bed for two, another smaller bed comfortable for for a child, running water, electricity, and even a heater. The main restrooms and showers were located on ground level, not too far from our room.

I soon wondered off to investigate my new environment. In the middle of the “campsite” was a big cabin, where the owners resided and made their guests breakfast daily. Surrounding the main building far up in the air were the other main treehouses. I walked up many creaky wood stairs to get to the rope bridges that connected them all. I cautiously walked across the well-constructed bridges, irrationally terrified that I would break them and fall and die. After realizing I had nothing to fear, I soon found comfort in the silence that the forest brought. I was able to reach my place of Zen as I watched the sun set, with horses calmly neighing in the distance. In that moment, I realized everything in the world is pure and everything is beautiful.

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Unique Oregon Hotels built from school and tree houses