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Two neighborhoods, one community

Hillsdale and Multnomah Village have been neighbors for a long time. For six, seven or eight decades - depending on how you measure history - our communities have been intertwined, often more than we realize.

This, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Multnomah Village is a good time to check perceptions of each other.

How does Hillsdale view Multnomah Village?

How does the Village view Hillsdale?

Of course, the village is older, by roughly 30 years. The origins are reflected in the architecture. The scale of just about everything in the Village is smaller. Smaller houses, smaller roads, smaller shops, and, yes, fewer parking places.

Hillsdale, served by eight bus lines and divided by four lanes of traffic, became a transit funnel serving the post-World War II suburbs. The Village has turned its back to busy Multnomah Boulevard, once a rail line that literally put the place on the map.

Public institutions have shifted between the two communities over time. The old, two-room Hillsdale School, once located near St. Barnabas Church on Vermont Street, was closed in 1923 and its students sent to the Village to the new Multnomah School. The school lasted more than 50 years. In 1978, over the protests of Multnomah School parents, it was closed and became the Multnomah Arts Center.

Today, Multnomah has no public school; Hillsdale has three, which still serve Multnomah's children as well as Hillsdale's.

The library at one time was also a point of contention. Old-timers remember the tiny, one-room Multnomah Branch Library jammed with books. The little library shut down when the county built a new library in Hillsdale in the 1950s, but folks in Multnomah wanted to make sure the modern building was called the Southwest Hills Branch, and so it was. Then, in the 1980s, when memories dimmed of the old naming dust-up, Hillsdale business leaders successfully lobbied to have the Southwest Hills branch renamed after Hillsdale.

Patti Waitman-Ingebretsen heads the Multnomah Historical Association, which, its name notwithstanding, serves all Southwest neighborhoods. Waitman-Ingebretsen lauds Hillsdale for having 'more vision' about the future of its community.

'Hillsdale seems a lot more sophisticated,' she says, pointing to Hillsdale's Town Center status and aggressive planning efforts.

'Little Multnomah Village is cute and quaint and diverse. It just doesn't seem like there's as much citizen involvement and vision,' she says. Still, the Village has become far more diverse in the past 15 years. 'We aren't all antique stores any more,' Waitman-Ingebretsen says.

It could be that citizens are more involved in changing Hillsdale because there is a lot more begging for change there. Multnomah Village likes its quaint village feel, thank you very much. What's not to love about the Village, except, perhaps, its lack of parking?

In Hillsdale, the suburban shopping center strung out along busy Capitol Highway is full of challenges, which neighbors and business leaders have organized to overcome.

Randy Bonilla, president of the Multnomah Neighborhood Association, says that Hillsdale is 'more retro-fifties; the Village is turn-of-the-century kitsch.' Mike Roach, president of the Hillsdale Business and Professional Association, says that Multnomah Village was blessed by being built sedately and quaintly before the rush to suburban growth. But then Roach, co-owner of Paloma Clothing, adds that '50s retro, if restored and celebrated, has a growing cachet today. The restoration has yet to happen in Hillsdale.

Multnomah's Bonilla values Hillsdale's restaurants, (he mentioned Three Square Grill and Salvador Molly's in particular), the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, the banks and several shops.

'It's part of my community; it's a place I go all the time,' says the Multnomah neighborhood leader.

Roach and other Hillsdale leaders say they value the Village's institutions - both public and private. They cite Annie Bloom's Books, Thinker Toys, O'Connor's, Fat City, Marco's, Switch Shoes, Neighborhood House, the post office and the Multnomah Arts Center.

As very different kinds of places, Hillsdale and Multnomah Village complement each other, Roach says. 'Very few businesses compete directly,' he said, adding that Multnomah is an 'area destination.'

Visitors explore the Village. Hillsdale isn't somewhere anyone explores. Instead, it is a place of places that people choose to visit separately.

Architect Frank Rudloff, who lives in Multnomah Village and works downtown, says he nearly always commutes home through Hillsdale rather than stay on Barbur Boulevard. Though it takes a little longer, he chooses Hillsdale's character over the Barbur's lack of it. He likes the feel of the shops along Capitol Highway and the curve of the old road at Hoot Owl Corner just before it tops the grade and dives into the deep road cut between the communities.

Hillsdale and the historic Capitol Highway connection to Multnomah provide just the settling, end-of-the-day transition Rudloff needs on his way home - to the Village.

Each day, neighbors like Rudloff in Hillsdale and Multnomah Village make these two, very different places one. We are twice blessed.