Carl Flipper’s inspiration coming true
By Cari Hachmann/ The Portland Observer
Carl Flipper believed that Jefferson High School should exhibit a sense of pride in its surroundings.
Designed by Morris Whitehouse in 1909, the school facing North Killingsworth Street between Commercial and Kerby avenues, just celebrated its centennial as a historical landmark in Portland.
While Flipper is no longer with us, his dream to open up the school’s north property line, making it more welcoming to the surrounding community is finally coming true.
The Portland activist started the plan more than 10 years ago as the Jefferson Pavilion and Plaza Project.
Enlisting several community groups for support, he envisioned a more inviting entrance where the school’s football field flows into Killingsworth with little forewarning, one with tall shade sails behind the stadium and a pedestrian-friendly plaza for people to sit.
With supporters on board and funding in place, Flipper contracted Carlton Hart Architecture to draw up the designs. Sadly, however, when Flipper died in 2006, his project fumbled and lost momentum.
But, while the city is busy with plans to revitalize the Killingsworth corridor and Portland Community College moves forward with the expansion of their Cascade campus, the community decided to move forward with Flipper’s dream.
“Carl, as a community leader, really inspired a lot of people with this project,” said Denyse McGriff, project manager at Portland Development Commission. “When he passed away, the focus was lost. Luckily, the community brought it back.”
Jump starting the project are members of the Humboldt Neighborhood Association, representatives from PCC Cascade, McMenamins, and the Multnomah County Library, the Portland Teachers Association, Jefferson’s Principal Margaret Calvert and many others from the neighborhood.
Portland Development Commission, whose Urban Renewal Advisory Committee dug up the project’s original designs, will fund what they now call the Jefferson High School Frontage Improvements Project.
The budget is estimated at $600,000, said McGriff. She expects the project to be complete this June.
Keeping the Carlton Hart Architecture as its designers, PDC is waiting on bids for construction.
Committee members spent eight months simplifying Flipper’s idealistic, yet perhaps outdated designs.
The area destined for change includes two triangular sections on the campus corners of North Kerby and Commerical.
Instead of tall shade sails, which people thought would obscure public view of the historical school, revised designs call for a lower, more transparent fence on both sides. The fence will be made of cast iron and separated by brick to match the North Portland Library adjacent to the school.
As it sits now, Jefferson’s track is higher than the sidewalk. According to the new design, the area between will be terraced with low-maintenance plants to protect the soil from erosion.
A small retaining wall will permit students and people walking by to sit and rest, like Flipper had envisioned. Both sides will have a grass space big enough for a class to be held outside.
Finally, the northwest corner will showcase Jefferson High School’s new identity with silver lettering on brick, three flags—state, federal and Jefferson’s—and a shiny new plaque, a memorial tribute to Carl Flipper.