Picture this for a moment. A lovely park with freshly mowed grass lined with walking paths and dotted by the occasional wooden bench to rest your wary feet. A few feet in front of you a mighty river flows north to south, the occasional boat floating lazily down its center. A mere three blocks behind you, one of Portland’s trendiest neighborhoods, St. Johns, filled with art house theaters, book stores, coffee shops, and clothing boutiques. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Now imagine all of that covered under the umbrella of one of the most gorgeous bridges in all of North America.
Welcome to Cathedral park. Sitting directly underneath the iconic St. Johns bridge, Cathedral Park seems like an urban oasis for those looking to escape the hustle of the city but don’t want to venture too far beyond its borders. The park gets its name from the gothic spires of the bridge that hovers above it which remains an ominous yet never threatening presence for joggers, picnic lovers, and boating enthusiasts. At the time of its construction, the St. Johns Bridge was the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi and the highest clearance of any bridge in North America. In modern times it is neither of those things, but its visual appeal knows few rivals.
Portland Oregon has a high standard for parks. It his home to the most parks in terms of quantity of any city in the United States. It is also home to the largest park (Forest Park) and the smallest (Mill Ends Park). Given these facts, it is no small feat that Cathedral Park stands out as one of Portland’s best. Surprisingly, Cathedral Park was not part of the original St. Johns Bridge design. Up until 1980 the land the park sits on underneath the bridge was zoned heavy industrial and was dominated by a junk yard. Remains of the area’s less appealing past still remain with unused railroad tracks and warehouse space now converted to fancy lofts and art studios.
Throughout the year Cathedral Park is home to many festivals, concerts, and events including the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, one of the largest Jazz events in the Western United States.