In the winter of 1996, discussions about forming a West Portland-area Waldorf school began to take place among a small group of parents. As winter turned to spring, the decision was made to begin in the fall with one small kindergarten. Robert Adams became the first teacher of Cedarwood School, welcoming four children and their families in October 1997. Adams recalls: “In naming the school, the council reflected on various ideas, and we were talking about cedar trees, if left undisturbed, they will take over the whole forest. We felt this was a powerful statement and after three days of deliberation, took the name Cedarwood School.” The school found a site in the basement of a church on Southwest Taylors Ferry Road, and the kindergarten had a home.
In February of that first year, the KinderMorning pre-kindergarten began, and by the fall of the following year, September 1998, Cedarwood School had two pre-kindergarten classes, a full kindergarten class and a first-grade class. By the fall of 1999, the school had outgrown the available rooms in the church, so Cedarwood acquired a guest house in a home next to the church and moved its pre-kindergarten programs to “the cottage,” making room in the church for Grades 1 and 2.
As enrollment grew and the lease on the Taylors Ferry site expired, a search began for a permanent location. In the summer of 2000, Cedarwood School found and purchased its new home, the historic Neighborhood House at Lair Hill Park. The community moved the school into the building two weeks before school began, in September 2000, with an additional kindergarten bringing the number of kindergarten classes to three. The school had grown to Grade 4 and the community was thriving.
When the school purchased the Neighborhood House, the city gave the school a timeline for renovating the building and bringing it up to code. Through many summers of construction, the school has replaced the roof, retrofitted the roof and walls for earthquake, replaced the plumbing, remodeled all of the restrooms, and redesigned the classrooms to make them fit our needs. The school continues to grow, and in the fall of 2006, we moved the curriculum into middle school with the addition of Grade 7. Cedarwood School became a full eight-grade Waldorf school in the fall of 2007, 10 years after the school opened its doors to four families.
Now, with over 300 students and a full array of subject classes, we have a thriving program. This has been further enhanced and enabled by the recent completion of a newly renovated wing on our beautiful building. In addition to two new classrooms, this renovation has given us a community kitchen, a spacious faculty room, a gorgeous performance space, an art display hall, and a fantastic music room. We can now truly serve our full pre-kindergarten-through-Grade 8 program and better share the fruits of this education with the Cedarwood community.
History of Neighborhood House
Neighborhood House was built in 1910 by the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) as a settlement house for European immigrants. It was designed in the Georgian Revival style by noted architect A.E. Doyle, whose other works include the Central Library in downtown Portland. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in July 1979.
As a settlement house, the building was used by the NCJW for its philanthropic work, which included English classes, a kindergarten, sewing school, cooking classes, manual training, gymnasium and library. In 1914, a neighborhood newspaper and doctor-staffed dispensary were established in Neighborhood House, and later it contained a prenatal clinic and a dental clinic. It also housed the Hebrew School on the third floor.
Neighborhood House became a war relief center in 1917. During the Great Depression, it contained a Red Cross clothing center in which up to 400 women at a time gathered to create garments for their families from surplus cotton supplied by the government. It became a USO center during World War II, when troops encamped at Lair Hill and Duniway parks came to Neighborhood House for entertainment.
From 1952 to 1979, the building was leased to Neighborhood House Inc., a United Way agency, for $1 a year. That agency used it for before- and after-school care, youth counseling, sports, a babysitting cooperative, and services for the elderly. In 1979, it became the headquarters for the Indochinese Cultural and Service Center, serving Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian refugees. In the 1990s it was used by the YMCA for day care and other programs.
It is appealing to those with an interest in history, architecture and the neighborhood to contribute to preserving Neighborhood House and to allow it to continue serving educational, cultural and social purposes.