Photograph by Philip Steffen

Pio stop connects with charming neighborhood

The Pioneer Express stop at Southeast Powell and Milwaukie is likely the most obscure stop on the current weekend route. Located three miles and two Pio stops to the north of Sellwood, the stop is overshadowed by the denser attractions to its south. As a result, it is not uncommon on any given ride to see no passengers riding to the stop. Similarly, it is safe to say that most riders’ experience with the bus stop is limited to seeing it pass by while they ride the Pio back across the Willamette River to Fred Meyer and campus.

Despite this lack of attention, however, it can be argued that this northernmost stop still has much to offer.

Coinciding with a bus stop on the TriMet 19 bus route, Southeast Powell and Milwaukie is situated at the confluence of three distinct neighborhoods. To the south sits Brooklyn, a primarily residential neighborhood, and to the north is East Portland, a collection of largely industrial and commercial buildings. The greatest attraction of the stop, however, is Ladd’s Addition, located immediately to the northeast and distinguished by its eclectic geometrical road layout, historical houses and dense rose garden.

A quick jaunt up Southeast 12th Avenue and across the tracks of the Orange MAX line will lead up the western boundary of Ladd’s Addition and towards a number of coffee shops, restaurants and bookstores. Like the rest of Ladd’s Addition, 12th Ave is home to a number of architecturally significant houses in various states of repair, some dating back as far as 1905. On sunny days, the uniquely painted houses are illuminated in bright contrast to the green ivy that grows up their facades and garden trellises. 

Towards the northwest corner of Ladd’s Addition sits Junior’s Cafe, a breakfast restaurant patronized primarily by locals. Next to the cafe is a dance studio, which spills classical music onto the sidewalk, and across the street is a transmission shop freshly painted in yellow and red. Inside the cafe, the Grateful Dead play on the speakers and the atmosphere is laid back. The food is traditional breakfast, with hash browns, eggs and drip coffee as standard fare, though not without the inclusion of a number of vegan and gluten-free dietary options. As in many small restaurants, things pick up around lunch, making it advisable to come closer to 10:00 a.m. or after 1:00 p.m. to dodge long wait times. 

Moving back through Ladd’s Addition and to the neighborhood’s southern edge on Southeast Division, one can find My Vinyl Underground, a record store in the basement of Books with Pictures, a store selling graphic novels. My Vinyl Underground specializes in recent and local indie releases, and is a great place to seek out newer and lesser known bands. Besides indie records, the store also sells a large variety of other merchandise, including a collection of used R&B records, t-shirts and a number of CDs.  

On the north east corner of Ladd’s Addition sits Magpie, a vintage clothing store. Very much vintage rather than thrift, the store carries a large selection of high quality formal wear, as well as the standard array of estate sale trinkets and accessories, all sold in an ambiance of ’70s funk and incense.   

Anyone who has had enough of shopping, eating and house spotting in Ladd’s Addition can walk several blocks north to Colonel Summers Park. This small neighborhood park is centered around a historical home converted into a community garden, and is surrounded on all sides by a number of vibrant street art installations and murals spilling over from Burnside to the north. Far more of a bustling urban park than the forested parks characteristic of Portland in general and Southwest in particular, Colonel Summers Park offers a pleasant change of speed. 

About a half an hour’s walk north of the SE Powell and Milwaukie stop, Colonel Summers Park could be considered a reasonable endpoint for a day’s travel from the Pio. Even then, the more determined urban hiker could easily reach Burnside from the stop, and the large number of TriMet routes in the surrounding neighborhoods makes SE Powell and Milwaukie an ideal jumping-off point for further exploration into the more distant parks and neighborhoods of Northeast Portland.  All in all, SE Powell and Milwaukie provides a unique opportunity for riders to get off the beaten path and explore communities often left unseen by students of Lewis & Clark.

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