"Rebuilding a Neglected Suburban Area" Lents by glabah

Lents Travel Guide: 23 reviews and 82 photos

What Lents Was

In 1904, an electric railway was constructed between Portland and Estacada. This line passed through the far southeast edges of the Portland area. A streetcar line was constructed along SE Hawthorne and continued along SE 50th and then Foster road, and eventually joined the new electric railway in the far southeast edge of Portland.

This new junction between the streetcar line and the electric railroad became "Lents Junction" as the community around it was known as Lents, after the first settler in the area Oliver P Lent. Eventually the Junction part of the name was left off and the area was simply known as Lents, without the apostrophe.

Eventually, the city of Portland expanded, and eventually this included the community of Lents. Today, it is fully included into the city of Portland in terms of its government structure.

There is no trace of the streetcar line, and in 1990 the railroad to Estacada (de-electrified in 1958) was purchased by a local government agency and abandoned in order to convert it into a bicycle path.

Due to the presence of the railroad line, a number of industries were built along it, including a paper mill and saw mill complex at Lents. The community developed a decidedly blue collar atmosphere, and there are a number of simple, small homes built for those who worked in the mill and needed a place to live.

What is Happening in Lents Today

Today (that is, the year 2005 to 2007), the Portland Development Commission has decided that the Lents area needs to be redeveloped. A condominium building has been constructed, and the asking price on units there are 2.5 times more than the average house sells for in Lents. New construction and government funded rebuilding are going on all over. The entire nature of the community is slowly changing.

This is good in that it is bringing new life to the community. It is bad because this was, not long ago, one of the few places in the Portland area the working class people could still afford to buy a home in. By the time all of this is done, Lents will have changed to become as difficult to afford to live in as most other areas of Portland.

The area, particularly the area directly west of Interstate 205, has some of the most toxic air in Oregon due to the federal limits allowed for benzene in gasoline and the number of vehicles on Interstate 205.

On the positive side, the new MAX line (which will open in 2009) will be finished, making the area have better transportation options. Furthermore, by 2015, new federal limits for benzene in west coast gasoline will (we can hope anyway) reduce the toxic nature of the air in this part of Portland.

Lent's Park is a popular and attractive park with a bark dust trail, and during August there are concerts and movies in the park. The park's Bandstand was the subject of a community project started by a local artest and a lot of labor contributed by several community members.

Not Many Tourist Items, but there are A Few

The vast majority of travelers who come here do so because they are on Interstate 205, and simply passing through here on their way to somewhere else.

If you have stopped here, you may have stopped here to visit the Chevron station at SE 92nd Avenue and Foster Road. It is a gasoline station close to Interstate 205. This is sort of the old town center for Lents, but has been heavily damaged by the routing of I-205 through the heart of the old community.

There is quite a lot more to Lents than this little area, but most people would not be interested. It is a residential and suburban commercial place. There are some local restuarants, which you will find are quite a bit better than those on the freeway signs. For example, try La Cazador if you are interested in Mexican. It is far closer to the freeway than any of the options advertised on the signs.

Perhaps the greatest gem of the area is the Leach Botanical Garden, which is a garden assembled through decades of work by two Portland residents, and now being further developed by the volunteers who take care of the old estate. It is one of the least known attractions in the Portland area, and yet at the very least it is an interesting place to stop and have a picnic. The Leach Garden Gift Shop has some items that might be of interest as well, as some of them are unique to the Leach Garden (others are standard made in China items though).

At one time the Trillium Artists Store was a neat place to visit, but they have now moved close to downtown Portland. It was a great gain for them, but a loss for us.

The biggest reason people come to visit the Lents area is most certainly the Willamette National Cemetary, though most of those people come to visit the grave sites of their relatives and have little idea that there may be something of interest in the community they drove through to get there.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Decent transit connections. Restaurants are more economical than a few neighborhoods.
  • Cons:Not much of interest to travelers, plus there are some good reasons for the low housing prices
  • In a nutshell:If you pass through on I-205, you may want to stop and take a look at a few places here, but if not then it is no big loss
  • Last visit to Lents: Aug 2007
  • Intro Updated Jan 5, 2015
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Reviews (23)

Comments (8)

  • Kotkoda's Profile Photo
    Nov 12, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    Thank you for telling me about the Leach Botanical Garden. I have lived in Lents since the summer but didn't know about it. I will surely visit soon!

  • Manara's Profile Photo
    Dec 13, 2009 at 6:29 AM

    Your page is very interesting and I like your shopping suggestions.

  • TarjaH's Profile Photo
    Dec 12, 2009 at 10:15 AM

    And your motto, really like that :)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Aug 22, 2009 at 2:52 PM

    It sounds like the town is having a new vibrance and activity to have it be a solid family type community. Wonderful description of this.

  • Camping_Girl's Profile Photo
    Jun 22, 2009 at 11:05 AM

    Very interesting page, with very thorough and useful tips!

  • Regina1965's Profile Photo
    Nov 10, 2008 at 12:56 PM

    Your tips are fantastic, so thorough! It is always nice to read tips from locals :D Regína

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Oct 11, 2008 at 11:52 PM

    All right, I will take that into account! Thanx for enlightening me/us on that remote place...

  • Dec 28, 2007 at 3:51 PM

    The key to appreciating El Pato Feliz is to stay away from tacos and burritos and go straight to the more authentic items like their excellent Posole. They also have (chica) Coke bottled in Mexico made with cane sugar rather than corn syrup.

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