Laurelhurst is a beautiful upscale neighborhood with many stunning single-family homes. Many of the properties are grand, with sprawling porches, long front walks, and fairytale elements like towers and extra wings. It’s common for a house in Laurelhurst to top a million dollars, but the neighborhood has more laid-back homes, as well. You can find a charming bungalow or smaller Craftsman on the same street as a huge mansion here.
There’s a great variety of architectural styles in Laurelhurst, too. For example, this mid-century ranch home from 1951 is just a block away from a large Dutch colonial home from 1925. Although they’re architecturally very different, both are works of art with well-preserved, original details. Both have a classic beauty and uniqueness that fits the neighborhood, despite their differences in style.
The variety of lovely homes in Laurelhurst is a result of the neighborhood’s original design, going back to the early 20th century. Back then, Laurelhurst was merely 462 acres of farmland belonging to Hazelfern Farm. This land was sold to the Laurelhurst Company in 1909, which platted a residential neighborhood on the land with the help of John Charles Olmsted, a talented landscape architect.
Olmsted was careful about how he designed the new neighborhood. In fact, Laurelhurst was the first planned neighborhood in the West, and that thoughtfulness is still reaping benefits nowadays. For instance, no hotels, apartments or commercial buildings have been permitted in Laurelhurst since the neighborhood’s beginning. This restriction has allowed Laurelhurst to preserve its historic single-family homes for more than a century.
Olmsted also created a unique layout for the neighborhood. He divided Laurelhurst into four quadrants with a roundabout at the center. Instead of plotting grid streets like the rest of Portland, he designed the streets to be arcs, winding around this central point.
Later, in 1924, a bronze statue of Joan of Arc, donated by Henry Waldo Coe, was placed in the roundabout. Coe was a physician and world traveler who had seen the original statue in Paris. Impressed with its quality, he ordered a replica to be made and given to Portland, his home city, in honor of the American soldiers who had fought in WWI. Thereafter, the roundabout was called Coe Circle, after the physician.
In addition to carefully planning the neighborhood’s streets and homes, Olmsted had a long-term plan for Laurelhurst’s natural scenery, too. He made trees and greenery central to the neighborhood’s blueprint. Besides lining the streets with trees, he designed the nearby Laurelhurst Park to be a future urban forest with picturesque areas for sitting, walking and playing.
Five years after the park was completed, it was called the “most beautiful park” in the West, and its beauty still draws visitors now. Like Olmsted had planned, the trees in Laurelhurst Park have grown to be giants. Families and friends picnic under their shade in the summer, and the many small paths through the forest are pleasant year-round.
The park also has a duck pond, plenty of playground equipment, and a spacious off-leash area that draws dog owners from all around Portland. For sports enthusiasts, there’s a basketball court, volleyball court, tennis court and soccer field, as well as a horseshoe pit for fun. Artists might appreciate the public art and stage for plays, including annual summer performances of Shakespeare. Laurelhurst Park isn’t just a nice stretch of greenery; it’s also an important part of the Laurelhurst community and a regular hangout spot for families in Portland.
With its lovely park and peaceful streets, you might imagine Laurelhurst to be a suburban neighborhood, but in fact, it’s just a short bike ride or drive away from downtown Portland. Although the neighborhood itself is purely residential, it’s surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants and other attractions. You can walk to the Laurelhurst Theater for “the best of modern cinema, Independent, art and classic film,” read the New York Times at Laurelhurst Café, or stop at the Laurelhurst Market Butcher for high-quality meat.
Laurelhurst is also known for it’s high-achieving Portland public school, Laurelhurst Elementary. The K-8 school has strong parent involvement and many families move to the neighborhood so their kids can attend this great program.
In this neighborhood, you’re conveniently situated near everything Portland offers, without giving up peacefulness or natural scenery. And, since Laurelhurst has so many gorgeous single-family homes, you’d have a nice variety of historic houses to choose from, too. Check out the current listings for Laurelhurst to find a home in a neighborhood you’ll love.