I am a cliche

School Portland

A high school in North East Portland had to be closed down due to asbestos or black mold, or so the rumors go. It was too expensive to rehab it and they apparently didn’t need the space so they decided to tear the whole thing down. It was where Gus Van Sant filmed the 2003 movie Elephant that Grover mentions in his GVK episode titled Paranoid Park Tryouts. It was already vacant when they filmed the movie, and for the past few years or two it was home to a DIY street plaza that the locals had built in the semi-secluded parking lot. There were a bunch of grind rails and artificial ledges set up on the island curbs, as well as a couple crazy ramps of various size and design. It was all very sketchy, but admirable. Every once in a while I would spy a few kids dinking around on their boards. Whenever I drove by, which was a couple times a week, I made a mental note that I should photograph it. Well, needless to say, I waited too long. This Spring they finally demolished the school to make way for some real estate development because the Portland school district needs the money. Before the demolition started they removed all the street obstacles and fenced in the parking lot for the workers and support equipment. By the time I got there with a camera, the only skating obstacle left had been moved upstairs into a courtyard balcony. I can’t even remember the name of the school since they tore down the sign. It’s now a big empty field on the corner of NE 42nd and Killingsworth. The athletic fields and expansive adjacent park footage are not included in the redevelopment plans, and will remain in place. The park has ironically been chosen as an eventual location for one of Portland’s 19 skatepark sites.

1 Comment

  1. The school was called Whitaker and to keep the rumors going I heard it was Raydon (spelling?) gas that forced the closure of the school. I think with Raydon you pretty much have to scrap the building. Most of the ledges were pretty solid. Stairs from the back courtyard area of the school were used for extra height. Some had angle iron and some had that recycled plastic bench material.
    The last experience I had skating there was last fall. Some Napoleanic security guard came ripping into the parking lot from 42nd, had a fit when there was woodscraps and trash blocking him from driving across the parking lot, jumped out of his car at the doors closest to the ledges, and had a minor meltdown. He kept checking the doors like someone had broken in but we had been there for a while with no sign of shadiness (us excluded). 5-10 minutes later a couple cops rolled up and told us that we were trespassing and to leave. This was before any fences or anything of the sort was up. The construction type fences went up shortly after. Kind of a weird way for it to all end.

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