Type “Portland” into Google Maps and you’ll see the far reaches of its zig-zag border, but to the discerning eye, something will seem amiss. At the intersection of Interstate 84 and Interstate 205, there’s a small triangle excluded by the outline — an enclave within the City of Roses. Welcome to Maywood Park.
While not possessing the land area of Lesotho, an independent nation entirely surrounded by South Africa, or the global significance of the Vatican, Maywood Park does possess a similar sovereignty despite its geographic situation.
It’s not a neighborhood of Portland but rather its own city, where the approx. 829 residents elect a mayor and five city councilors. The community is tightly-knit, hosting annual events like a garage sale, Fourth of July parade, and Easter egg hunt. But how did this “city within a city” come to be?
The year was 1926, and as infrastructure expanded, the pastoral areas of what’s now Northeast Portland opened up to development.
Columbia Realty Company purchased a tract of land covered in towering conifer trees just east of Rocky Butte; legend has it that one winter night, a close relative of the subdivision’s original developer pointed out how attractive the woods looked in May. And the Maywood Park name stuck.
Four years later, the parcel swapped ownership, and Commonwealth, Inc. set out to build a neighborhood in the style of Laurelhurst and Eastmoreland. Many of the eclectic English and Cape Cod-style houses of the time remain standing.
Residents of the area voted to incorporate in 1967 as part of a decade-long attempt to stop the construction of I-205. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful and the freeway cut through Maywood Park’s west end, demolishing more than 80 homes. Nevertheless, the stand-alone city was able to negotiate noise reduction modifications, which is why I-205 is built at the bottom of a steep embankment there.