Lake Oswego's First Addition: Old Oregon Charm with a Modern Oregon Twist

Part of the Portland metro’s charm: its diversity. Since moving here in October of last year, I’ve tried to explore the many different neighborhoods, cities, natural spaces, parks and cultures. Lake Oswego, just eight miles south of downtown Portland, enjoys a flavor totally unique, worth visiting and possibly a beautiful place to call home-- though admittedly, it is more expensive than many other local neighborhoods. But its value is based on its one-of-a-kind character.  Lake Oswego is not the “big city,” no, but neither is it a typical suburban destination of carbon-copy strip malls and cookie-cutter housing developments. This thriving town, encircling the lake which gave it its name, captures a nostalgic Oregonian charm as well as an old fashioned grandness.

History

One of Portland’s most prosperous cities, Lake Oswego offers both bountiful natural beauty and historic architecture. Perhaps the most historic of all is “First Addition,” a neighborhood built in 1888 first for the "additional" workers of the time who came to the area during the short-lived iron boom.

The neighborhood has come quite a long way since those days. Today you’ll find approximately 30 blocks of historic homes connected by both modern roads and skinny alleyways that evoke the 19th century. Most of these homes are old Oregon at its most charming: farmhouses, Cape Cods, and bungalow style architecture with graceful Arts and Crafts embellishments: expect wide porches, well tended, colorful gardens, peaked attics, full basements. Homes most often rest on generous lots, yard in front on each side, and in the back, and with a town full of avid gardeners, spring in Lake Oswego is truly glorious. Here’s just one example (photo courtesy of First Addition Neighbors).

Neighborhood Real Estate

The land itself in First Addition has become very valuable, to say nothing of the homes—the median sales price for Lake Oswego in March of 2012 was close to 300K, with asking closer to $500K, quite the lead over the Portland metro median sold price of $230 and asking of $232. But in First Addition, home prices run almost three times higher than Lake Oswego’s collective median prices. Part of the charm of First Addition is its village feel. I almost expect to see women in bustles, men in top hats, and horse drawn carriages And indeed, the residents have embraced this feeling (though their sense of style has decidedly modernized!), as the neighborhood’s official "Village Center” recreates a European or early American small town, complete with shops, cafes, markets, restaurants and services, all of them a short walk from First Addition homes. None of this is retro in a too cute, overly self-conscious way though. The town is certainly modern, with some of the area's most innovative cuisine, unique art, and sophisticated (though family-oriented) night life with a lake view.

Nature Abounds

But even in all of this idyllic, well contained charm, Oregon’s wild streak persists: The northern end of the neighborhood runs right into Tyron Creek State Park, 645-acres of forest and creeks—every one of which I am trying to explore with my dog. Also walkable for First Additioners: the Willamette River and George Rogers Park, offering picnic grounds, ball fields, tennis courts and beaches. Put simply, if you’re considering buying a home in Lake Oswego, First Addition should be on your list for exploration (maybe even “first” on that list!).