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Everett House: a Home of Health and Wellness in Portland, Oregon

light steam graphic

Please welcome Tom who takes us through the Everett House in Portland, Oregon. Welcome Tom as we follow along the SaunaTimes public sauna map.

As it has for decades the Everett House Community and Healing Center provides an oasis to Portlanders – a sauna facility and then some.  I spoke with Judy, the general manager, to learn more.  

Judy from the Everett House
Judy: General manager and interviewee for this feature

Everett House, Portland Established 1978 

In the late 1970s a Portland massage therapist purchased a run-down home for his practice. Soon after he invited other health practitioners to join him. They built a wooden hot tub in the yard, added a basement sauna and showers, and the Everett House was born. In the decades since the spa grew and evolved, always balancing holistic health practices and a strong bond with the community.

Eventually Everett house outgrew its zoning but was able to obtain a conditional use permit from the city. This allowed them to stay rooted in its residential neighborhood. Everett House now occupies three adjacent homes in the middle of a lush Portland block. Facilities include two electric traditional saunas, a steam room, a large outdoor saltwater hot tub, two cold plunge tubs, locker rooms, a tea room / café, numerous treatment rooms, and community meeting and training spaces.

Everett House Small Sauna
Inside the small sauna.  Room for 3 to 6, depending how cozy you want to get.  
Everett House Backyard
One of Everett House’s outdoor areas. Saltwater hot tub in the center with showers to the left of it and tearoom to the right.  The cold plunge tubs are just out of frame the left, next to the lounge chairs. A lush oasis.

Clothing Optional at the Everett House in Portland

Everett House is clothing-optional and mixed-gender. It’s not a nudist / naturist facility; swimsuits are truly optional – wear a suit if you like…or don’t. When I visited about half of the patrons chose to cover up all the time and many to most of the rest generally wrap in a towel when not in a sauna, tub/pool, shower, etc. I’d say “it’s no big deal” but that’s not true. It is a big deal, but not in the way you might think.

I’ve experienced mixed-gender nudity before in one of Germany’s amazing thermes. So, I had already been through what Judy told me is the typical reaction: about 1 minute of some combination of surprise, fear, shock, and modesty followed immediately by the return of comfort and normalcy. Then gradually, an understanding setting in that that nakedness just fits in a place of wellness like Everett House. Judy told me of the enjoyment she gets noticing people transition from uncomfortable to relaxed as they realize that no one is paying attention. She’s witnessed people of all body types build self-acceptance and confidence. She’s even seen Everett’s welcoming space help people heal from physical and sexual trauma, “regaining ownership of their body.” 

In the current environment in the US we almost never experience nudity in a non-sexual context. This is terribly unhealthy – psychologically, physiologically, and spiritually. (One of these days I’m going to ask Glenn if I can run an editorial in Sauna Times on this subject; you’ve been warned.) If you’re lucky enough to have a chance to visit Everett House, I highly recommend you give a try to “nuding up” and experiencing it for yourself. Just as we have all found with sauna, one can reap great benefits from stepping outside our comfort zone now and then. 

Everett House large sauna
The larger sauna at Everett House, which easily holds a dozen-plus.

Community at the Everett House in Portland

Everett House takes sauna and their spa facilities seriously. But they hold just as much reverence for the ‘community’ side of their mission. Many of their regulars walk or bike from nearby and receive a discount for doing so. They hold time blocks for women-only and the LGBTQ community, allowing those that might feel more comfortable using the spa surrounded by a community with which they identify. The 3rd home in the cluster is essentially an incubator for community and wellness improvement efforts, playing host to neighborhood association meetings, classes, workshops, and more. 

Two massage schools began at Everett House, and many area wellness practitioners started their careers there. They give educators free access during Teacher’s Appreciation week and donate services regularly to fundraisers and charity auctions. Perhaps most telling of the value Everett House provides to its community is the way that community fought back when the center faced an existential crisis in 2018. The city threatened to pull their permit to operate due to a parking technicality. Supporters of Everett House barraged the city with emails, phone calls, speeches at hearings, etc. Quickly, the government of Portland recognized Everett House’s importance to the city renewed the permit. Portland is a better place for it.

So for their longevity and commitment to wellness, community, and great sauna, we happily name Portland’s Everett House Community and Healing Center the Sauna Times Public Sauna of the Month for September, 2023!

Everett House cold plunge
Antique tubs for cold plunging
Everett House’s cozy tea room
Correspondent Tom entering the small sauna at Everett House
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