Life in Portland Blog

The All-Purpose Guide to the Boise Neighborhood in Portland

Boise Is a Great Place to Live

North Portland’s Boise neighborhood is one of liveliest and most desirable enclaves in all of PDX. This historic section of Portland’s “5th Quadrant” has seen a resurgence over the past two decades, and homes here are now a sought-after commodity.

The Boise Neighborhood: A History

The Boise neighborhood was named for Reuben P. Boise, a celebrated local attorney and school board member who lived in Portland way back in the 1800s. Early on, Boise’s namesake neighborhood was part of a small town known as Albina, along with Eliot, King, Humboldt, Irvington, and Piedmont. Albina’s early residents were European immigrants, and some of the homes they built by hand still stand today.

Albina was annexed by the City of Portland in 1891, and the area kept growing even through the economic depression of 1893. By 1905, a local building boom was in full effect, bringing with it streetcars, small businesses, and plenty of new homes.

From 1910 on, Boise and the greater Albina area saw an influx of Black residents, many of whom found work on the railroad line and in local shops. During World War II, Portland’s African American community was bolstered with a sizable emigration of new members in the form of workers relocating to work in the shipbuilding yards situated along the Columbia River to the north.

The development of Vanport was created to house these new residents, but when it was destroyed by flooding, many of its former residents resettled in Boise and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Much of the latter 20th century found the Boise neighborhood sliding into disrepair and disrepute. The area’s main thoroughfare, Mississippi Avenue, was a pretty dicey part of town – a far cry from the hip and thriving commercial district you’ll find there now.

During the late 1990s, the City of Portland began instituting a plan to revitalize the neighborhood. The plan has largely been successful, spurring an influx of commercial investment. These days, Mississippi Avenue is one of the hippest spots in the city, and the Boise neighborhood is one of PDX’s most desirable enclaves. The changing atmosphere has not been without its share of contention among those concerned about gentrification. Still, there can be no doubt that Boise is a great place to live.

Great Places to Visit in Portland’s Boise Neighborhood

There’s a lot going on in the Boise area. The aforementioned Mississippi Avenue serves as a commercial and cultural hub, and is lined with all manner of quirky local businesses and much-loved bars and eateries.

Locals and visitors flock to Mississippi Studios for its convivial atmosphere and intimate concert space. Here, taste-making local bands and touring acts take the stage as reverent attendees bask in the ambiance of the top-notch sound system.

Sunlan Lighting is a longstanding Mississippi Avenue mainstay that specializes in light bulbs of all kinds. That might not sound that exciting, but before you judge, be sure to take a look around. You’re bound to find a new way to light up your life, and “Light Bulb Lady” Kay Newell is always happy to assist.

Hungry while you’re in the neighborhood? Head over to Mississippi Pizza, where you can dine on delicious pizza by the pie or slice. In back, you’ll find the Atlantis Lounge, which is a great place to imbibe and catch a local band on the weekend.

The ReBuilding Center is a non-profit that specializes in architectural salvage, so it’s a must-visit for anyone planning on renovating a charming fixer-upper in need of some TLC. The warehouse takes in eight tons of building materials per day, so if they don’t have what you need today, check back tomorrow.

For the full experience, you really need to head up to Boise and take in the sights in person. There’s so much more than you can take in in a day, let alone a succinct neighborhood guide, but be sure to check out Gravy, The Fresh Pot, Pistils Nursery, Ristretto Roasters, Tasty ‘n’ Sons… the list goes on.

Boise Neighborhood Schools

Boise-Eliot Elementary School is a vaunted local institution among the city’s African American residents, many of whom drive children long distances to attend here. The school focuses on a STEAM curriculum, which is similar to STEM, but with an added emphasis on art. While the school may underperform on standardized tests, parents say test scores don’t tell the whole story, and many wouldn’t have their kids attend anywhere else.

Humboldt Elementary School receives high marks for its approachable and friendly staff, its excellent SUN program, and its rigorous curriculum. Parents say the school’s small class sizes ensure that each student has ample opportunity for personal assistance, and students love the extracurricular activities.

Grant High School garners rave reviews from parents and students alike. Among the pros: an engaged principal, a diverse and friendly student body, and a staff that shows its dedication to academic excellence day in and day out. Grant students also make impressive showings on standardized tests, which certainly can’t hurt their college admissions potential.

Walkability and Real Estate Styles in Portland’s Boise Neighborhood

These days, urbanites are rediscovering the joys of traveling on foot, and Boise doesn’t disappoint in that respect. It earns an impressive walk score of 90, and an even better bike score of 91. TriMet, Portland’s robust transit system, also serves the neighborhood, giving residents plenty of transportation options.

So what sort of homes will you see while you’re out enjoying the area’s excellent walkability? As one of the city’s older neighborhoods, you’ll find plenty of charming relics of a bygone era. A few of the homes in this part of the city date from the late 1800s, and there are many more from the early 20th century. Bungalows, Victorians, and the regional “Old PDX” style homes are abundant here. Having said that, there’s also plenty of new development, and quite a few midcentury style homes as well.