This blog is written by Visnja and it is about our (husband John and myself) move to Portland, Oregon from the East Coast and buying and renovating an old Victorian house in Southeast Portland. It will show our house being gutted and the before and after of all the work. It will also showcase some of the places, things and people I encountered. It will be a guide for future home renovators and people who want to move to Portland, like us, and don’t know anything about either.
I took a leap in my life. Our move from the East coast to the West coast was just that. A leap into the complete unknown. Not knowing a soul here, John and I dared to make a home, no matter how impermanent. The days stretched into months and the months into years. We are still here. It was not about finding a house but about finding a home. A place to feel at home in, a place to belong, a place to feel secure and safe in, a place to call our own. A place to create my life in, create history in. A place to have a garden and a place to have a meal. It’s just a place to call “Home” for a little while!
So what happened? How did we decide on Portland?
We got an offer on the house in New Jersey and had a 60 day closing date. I was the actual real estate agent handling the sale of my own home, but that’s another story. We HAD to figure out where to go. Doing research in magazines and websites about where to live, most popular places in the country to visit etc. We also considered Europe and cities such as Paris and Zagreb so after a few desperate weeks of not having made a decision we started pulling little bits of paper out of a hat and pulled Portland more than a few times. We really knew nothing about it except that some of my friends had lived there and liked it, and all the news articles were raving about its livability. So I decided to make a quick trip to Portland and see if it was as good as everyone said it was. I arrived not knowing a soul and booked myself into the Jupiter Hotel on Burnside on the East side. Great hotel, artsy, hip and had a great restaurant. I walked around and liked what I saw, the sun was shining and the city was pretty. The next place I stayed in was in Nob Hill, on the West side of the Willamette river, and it was a large suite with my own kitchen for $100/night. It was a steal. I walked around, met a few locals, ate at some of Portland’s signature restaurants and read all I could in the local magazines. I spoke to bartenders, shop owners, people at bus stops, etc. The fact that I felt extremely lonely the whole time made me wonder how I would cope if we actually moved to Portland. I put that thought on the back burner. The rain had started as well, it was early autumn and it seemed everyone was telling me that the rain will be constant for a while. I really did not understand how much rain they were talking about until much later, after one whole winter of living there.
So I got back to Dover and we started making plans to move to Portland. We had our whole house to move and the car would have to be shipped, the animals would go with us on the airplane and we had to find somewhere to live when we arrived there. John wanted to live in a high rise and the whole Pearl district was being revamped with modern highrises. The Pearl District is a recent name for a former warehouse and industrial area just north of downtown. Many of the warehouses had been converted into lofts, and new multistory condominiums had also been developed on previously vacant land. The increasing density had attracted a mix of restaurants, brewpubs, shops, and art galleries. It seemed the perfect neighborhood for an ex New Yorker. I found a few apartments on Craigslist and sent off some emails. The woman I was corresponding with on one of them seemed extremely nice and sent me great pictures of the brand new one-bedroom never before inhabited super modern gleaming apartment. She lived in Tacoma, near Seattle, and it was an apartment she bought with her husband as an investment property, we found out later. On November 11, my mother’s birthday, year 2005, we moved to Portland, Oregon.
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