Only 17 minutes by car to downtown Portland, the St. Johns neighborhood is a world apart—a nature lover’s paradise, surrounded, intersected, and graced by two rivers, a slough, and a sizable wetland, respectively.
The St. Johns neighborhood is located in North Portland, on the western tip of the peninsula formed by the convergence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.
It’s bordered by the Columbia River to the northeast (separating it from Hayden Island), the Willamette River to the northwest (separating it from Sauvie Island and Linnton), the North Portland railroad to the southeast (separating it from University Park, Portsmouth, and Kenton), and Cathedral Park to the southwest.
Related: Homes for Sale in Portland’s St Johns Neighborhood
People, dogs (on leash), and ducks gather at this beautiful park every day. In summer, it’s a popular family gathering place.
Neighborhood in Transition
Like much of Portland today, St. Johns is a neighborhood in transition. Once a largely industrial/corporate park hinterland, with a decidedly seedy downtown, it’s now blossoming into a destination for forward-thinking entrepreneurs, upwardly mobile professionals, and developers. Plus Portland neighborhood lovers like us.
While we explored and photographed St. Johns for this guide, casual conversation in the coffee hangouts, restaurants, and shops gravitated repeatedly to the new housing and retail developments popping up around town. (Check out our regularly updated map.)
Will they fit in with the special vibe of the neighborhood? Will they drive up home prices and taxes? Who are all these new people moving into the neighborhood? Will the neighborhood be recognizable in 10 years?
Only time will tell, but we’re betting the wholesome, welcoming, creative, inclusive spirit of this great community will survive the transition.
(What’s happening in St. Johns (and much of the rest of Portland as well) is widely bemoaned as gentrification, and it’s a hot topic around town. Check out the articles below in the In the News section for more on this evolving front.)
A Shopping Mecca
New, well-curated gift, clothing, and antique shops now line North Lombard and adjacent streets, making for destination shopping with friends.
A Coffee Paradise
Along with a mother-load of fine coffee shops (Affogato, Anna Bannanas, Cathedral Coffee, St. Johns Coffee Roasters, The Great North, Two Stroke Coffee), imagine a choice of several Oregon roasters (Coava Coffee Roasters, Equator Coffee, Portland Roasting, St. Johns Coffee Roasters, Tanager, Water Avenue Coffee Company)–most within a block or so of each other. Here are a few of our faves.
St John’s Coffee Roaster is the only coffee shop in St. Johns that roasts their own beans. With a retro hippy allure, it’s a neighborhood fave.
The Great North is a newer coffee shop–light, bright, and upbeat–with a decidedly urban vibe.
As of May 2016, Two Stoke Coffee Company is the newest coffee house in St. Johns and perhaps the most intriguing–with a couple of uber-cool motorcycles on display and an adjoining cycle gear shop. The window bar and loft are primo people-watching perches.
Dining & Noshing
Unlike coffee shops, St Johns is not a mecca for fine dining establishments. But we did discover a couple of gems in the rough.
The James John Cafe is an endearing throwback to earlier times when food was simple and nearly always good. Even patrons dress the part. On our recent visit, nearly every male in the cafe was attired in lumbersexual style–meaning facial hair, expensive flannel shirts, puffy vests, cool boots, glasses, and cooler-than-cool wool beanies. So there’s eye candy to keep you amused while you wait for That French Toast!
Update: Sad to say that James John Cafe closed in December 2016. It is sorely missed.
Mama San Soul Shack is a soulful fusion of American South and Southeast Asian on the Lombard strip. Those wings!
And then there’s the amazing Chef Anna Henrie Henricks of Sweetheart Cake Studio and Pop-Up Bakery. We’ve never seen more beautiful cakes and pastries. And they taste as good as they look.
St. Johns Farmers Market
Nearly everyone we talked to in St. Johns while researching this guide spoke glowingly about the St. Johns Farmer Market. It’s a summer market, so we’ll be back then to capture a few photos for this section.
St. Johns Bizarre & Parade
The neighborhood of St. Johns is justifiably proud of its much-lauded yearly craft bizarre/street festival/parade (one of Portland’s longest-running parades).
This single-day event (2nd Saturday in May each year) in the heart of St. Johns celebrates the unique character of North Portland. The bizarre typically showcases over 100 juried craft vendors, several music stages, and numerous food vendors–plus games and special activities.
And of course a PARADE. The theme varies each year–and it’s always a hoot. This is a not-to-be-missed spring event.
St. Johns is home to nearly all styles of Old Portland architecture, from smaller bungalows and Cape Cods to grander Victorians.
Surrounded on three sides by water, St. Johns even has a floating home community.
Many St. Johns homes are sitting on generously sized lots, just begging for a resurgence of urban gardeners.
Additionally, some of the newer developments are designed to fit gracefully into this community of older homes.
St. Johns Photo Gallery
Our St. Johns Photo Gallery is a work in progress and regularly updated with new and interesting photos. Check back often as our exploration of everything St. Johns continues.
Portland Neighborhoods by the Numbers
Each year, the April issue of Portland Monthly Magazine delivers a treasure trove of revealing numbers on Portland’s ever-dynamic housing front.
In this much-anticipated report, you’ll find interactive stats on real estate, people, crime, and lifestyle for each of Portland’s 95 neighborhoods and 28 suburbs.
Sort by dozens of columns to see where your neighborhood-of-interest stacks against all other Portland neighborhoods. For instance, when I recently stack ranked Parks (% of Neighborhood) in the Lifestyle table, St. Johns out-parks all but four other Portland neighborhoods, with 32% of the hood dedicated to community parks and open spaces.
When you consider that St. Johns is bordered on three sides by the Willamette or Columbia Rivers, bisected horizontally by the Columbia Slough, and dominated in the northeast by the Smith and Bybee Wetlands, you get a sense of a neighborhood nestled in the great outdoors, flanked by nature all around. At nearly 2,000 acres, Portland Metro’s Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area is the largest protected wetlands within an American city.
On the other hand, if walking is key to your well-being, St. Johns is probably not your hood, with a Walkscore recently of only 15 (ranking 93 of 95 neighborhoods).
For more information, check out Portland Neighborhoods By The Numbers: Where to Buy in 2015, which includes The Annual Quick Reference Guide to 122 Neighborhoods and Suburbs. There are nearly 60 revealing criteria available for each Portland neighborhood and Portland Metro community.
Parks | Recreation
St. Johns is a haven for nature lovers. There are plentiful parks and natural areas, including Cathedral Park, Columbia Slough, Kelley Point Park, Pier Park, Saint Johns City Park, and Smith and Bybee Wetlands.
Upon entering St. Johns, you see the sign, “Welcome to the Peninsula, Gateway to Nature.” Sightings of Bald Eagles and other birds of prey are common.
- Cathedral Park
- Chimney Park
- Columbia Slough
- George Park
- Johns Community Garden
- Kelley Point Park
- Pier Community Garden
- Pier Park
- Pier Outdoor Pool
- Sitton SUN Community School
- St Johns Community Center
- St Johns Park
- Johns Racquet Center
- Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area
Public Schools in St. Johns are part of Portland Public Schools.
- Roosevelt High School
- George Middle School
- James John Elementary School
- Sitton Elementary School
County | Zip Code
- County: Multnomah
- Zip Code: 97203
Homes for Sale in St Johns
Homes for Sale in Bordering Neighborhoods
In the News
- Gentrification: In Portland, as in Spike Lee’s Brooklyn, a Complicated Question of Race and Class | Oregon Live
- Changing Neighbors: North Portland Deals with Gentrification | The Beacon
- Here’s What Four Decades of Gentrification in North and Northeast Portland Looks Like | Portland Mercury
- Saint Johns Main Street
- The Best 10 Coffee & Tea in North Portland | Yelp
- There’s more to Portland than ‘Portlandia’ | The Washington Post
- For more in-depth information on Portland neighborhoods, check out our Portland Neighborhood Guide (coming soon).
- For our growing photo collection on the St. Johns neighborhood, be sure to visit our St. Johns Photo Gallery.
Copyright 2015-2020 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.