Portland Classical Chinese Garden
Colorful in a different way, the Portland Classical Chinese Garden (239 NW Everett St., 503/228-8131, www.portlandchinesegarden.org, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily Apr.–Oct., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily Nov.–Mar., $8.50 adults, $7.50 seniors, $6.50 students ages 6–18 and college students with ID) is a formal Chinese garden built in the style of the Ming Dynasty. The block-square garden is a joint effort between two famed gardening centers, Portland and its Chinese sister city, Suzhou.
Over 60 landscape designers and craftspeople from Suzhou lived and worked in Portland for a year to complete the gardens, which are the largest traditional Chinese gardens in the United States. Nearly all the materials and tools used were also brought from China, including roof and floor tiles, all the hand-carved woodwork, the latticed windows, and over 500 tons of Swiss cheese–like Taihu granite boulders.
The gardens are designed to replicate a scholars garden, a specific form of Suzhou garden meant to be a miniaturization of nature, as a living form of Chinese landscape painting.
The Portland Classical Chinese Garden are a masterwork of concision, with an 8,000-square-foot lake, a tea house and tower, two courtyards, carved screens, and tiled mosaics. The garden is also home to more than ninety specimen trees, many rare and unusual shrubs and perennials, and signature collections of unusual plants native to China.
It’s a magical place, seemingly a world away from downtown Portland. The tea shop keeps the same hours as the gardens and is a delightful spot for a light lunch. On summer Tuesdays the gardens sponsor a series of evening concerts; see the website for details.
To the north, Old Town/Chinatown ends at Union Station, the glorious Italianate rail station that still serves as Portland’s Amtrak depot. The station has been in continuous use since it was built in 1896 and is the second-oldest still-operating train station in the country. With its terra-cotta tile roof and 150-foot campanile with a four-sided Seth Thomas clock, this is one of Portland’s most beloved landmarks. Step into the marble-walled waiting room to admire the cool neon signs, art deco lettering, and vaulted ceilings, all part of a 1930s interior redesign.
Wandering the streets of Old Town/Chinatown alone late at night is probably not a good idea, but traveling safely to and from the restaurants and clubs is easy. Taxis are usually easily found in this entertainment hotbed, MAX light-rail trains run along 1st Avenue, and numerous buses pass along 5th and 6th Avenues and on Everett Street.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel