Monday, September 22, 2014

La Rivière

A few months ago I had a series of post about the art outside the Portland Art Museum. I actually still have a couple of those left to do. Our next installment is La Rivière (1943) by the French sculptor Aristide Maillol, one of a pair of giant bronze Maillol nudes flanking the museum's main entrance. Their presence here is a fairly new development, both sculptures having arrived in the last decade or so. It strikes me as a little odd and retro to do this in the early 21st Century. I don't know whether it necessarily rises to the dreaded "problematic" or "reactionary", but the two Maillols do make it pretty clear that the visitor isn't entering a museum of contemporary art.

So the museum context is kind of weird, but taken by themselves I rather like the two Maillols, the dynamic La Rivière and the placid, posed La Montagne. Even better, from a blog standpoint, there's some rather fascinating history to relate about them.

As with many of Maillol's best-known works, the model for La Rivière was Dina Vierny, who also modeled for Henri Matisse and other prominent French artists, although she worked primarily with Maillol until his death in 1944. Matisse and others encouraged her to get into the business side of the art world, and after World War II she became a prominent art dealer and collector, eventually opening a museum dedicated to Maillol and his work. NPR had an entertaining interview with her in December 2008, in which (among other things) she explained that the nude modeling was originally her idea, and she had to persuade the shy (and elderly) Maillol to do it. When Vierny died in 2009, media outlets including the New York Times and The Guardian published lengthy obits. The NYT piece noted that during World War II (and while modeling for La Rivière) Vierny worked with the French Resistance, guiding refugees over mountain paths in the Pyrenees and helping them escape into neutral Spain. She was captured twice, was acquitted once, and was released the second time after Maillol somehow persuaded Arno Breker, Hitler's favorite sculptor, to intercede on her behalf.

La Rivière is one of Maillol's most famous works, and naturally this is not the only copy of it in existence. New York's Museum of Modern Art has one, as does the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Other copies are located in Zurich; St. Louis, MO; and Pasadena, CA. In 2013, a copy from Vierny's collection sold for $8.2M. The MoMA page about La Rivière has a couple of paragraphs about it, originally excerpted from a book of museum highlights:

The daring instability and torsion of The River are rare in Maillol's sculpture. Instead of trying to emulate the dynamism of twentieth-century life, as did so many artists of his time, Maillol usually sought an art of serenity and stillness, of classical nobility and simplicity. As late as 1937, in fact, he remarked, "For my taste, there should be as little movement as possible in sculpture." Yet within a year or so afterward he had conceived The River, a work in which the movement is almost reckless.

Commissioned to create a monument to a notable pacifist, the French writer Henri Barbusse, Maillol conceived the sculpture as a work on the theme of war: a woman stabbed in the back, and falling. When the commission fell through, he transformed the idea into The River. In a departure from the usual conventions of monumental sculpture, the figure lies low to the ground and rests apparently precariously on the pedestal, even hanging below its edge. Twisting and turning, her raised arms suggesting the pressure of some powerful current, this woman is the personification of moving water.

I haven't come across anyone mentioning this, but I have to wonder whether the precarious pose is a reference to Vierny's dangerous Resistance work. It just seems like it would be difficult to work on something like this and not see the obvious analogy.

Curiously, the Portland Art Museum's website doesn't mention anything about the statues out front, and I have yet to figure out exactly how they came by the Maillol duo, whether they were purchased, donated, or loaned, or from whom, or when. (The museum's online catalog lists six other Maillol sculptures & drawings, but nothing about the giant ones outside.) I did find a couple of old Oregonian articles that pass along a remarkable historical anecdote, though. Among the many people Vierny helped to escape the Nazis was a young girl named Vera Pistrak, who grew up to be Vera Katz, Oregon House Speaker and three-term Mayor of Portland.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Here are a few photos of Every Rose Has Its Thorn, a 2013 mural on the side of a building at SW 12th & Washington, right next door to the new Capax Infiniti. It's by an Australian street artist known as "Rone". A gallery on his website shows that giant female faces like this are his signature look. It's practically his exclusive look. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the one-note thing reminds me just a little of Nagel prints, or Wyland whale murals, or Muriel Castanis and her spooky draped-fabric figures. (Incidentally, Portland once had its own Wyland mural, Orcas of the Oregon Coast, painted on the back of the old Fox Theater building. That building was torn down to make room for today's Fox Tower.)

This was painted for last year's Forest for the Trees, Portland's big annual mural-painting event. Last year was the first edition, and the Oregonian posted a big photo essay showing many of that year's murals being painted, including the one here. Acclaim Magazine links to a short video of Every Rose Has Its Thorn being painted.

As far as I know the title has nothing to do with the 1988 Poison power ballad. At least I hope the two are unrelated. Now if I can just get that damn song out of my head.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Capax Infiniti

The next public mural in our ongoing project is another very new one, having appeared on the side of the Carlyle Building at SW 11th & Washington about a month ago. Capax Infiniti was created by a prominent South African street artist who goes by the name "Faith47" (aka @faithfourseven). I'm just beginning to learn about the world of street art, and I wasn't familiar with her or her work, but apparently having something of hers here is kind of a big deal. The mural was created for this year's Forest For the Trees event, an annual public mural-painting project, now in its second year.

Until quite recently I had an unwritten policy that I wasn't going to bother with murals. The ones around town all seemed to adhere to a small set of themes: Local history, neighborhood boosterism, positive messages for kids and teens, and thinly veiled wink-wink-not-quite-advertising. But I really wanted to do something new and different here, so I junked the old policy, and here we are. Murals were a short step from the City Repair painted intersections I've been covering for a few months now, so I suppose this was a logical progression. In any case I seem to have picked a good time to take an interest, as it looks like we're starting to get a wider range of artists and subject matter here.

Another attractive aspect of this new project is that, from what I can tell, the mural and street art world isn't totally dominated by old white men, for a change. If you write about "traditional" public art in Portland, you inevitably keep coming back to the same small group of people, a bunch of elderly or deceased white guys who peaked while JFK was President. It's gotten so I can identify the work of several of these guys just by sight alone, and I almost never guess wrong. Which is a very esoteric and tedious superpower to have, and one that isn't particularly useful outside the Northwest.

Sun Yat Sen statue, Honolulu

Sun Yat Sen Statue, Honolulu

In Honolulu's Chinatown, on the pedestrian mall by the river, is a statue of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the Chinese revolutionary and founder of the Republic of China (which is now the government in Taiwan). The statue sits atop a marble base, inscribed in gilt letters with his philosophy and aphorisms in several languages.

The statue was a gift from the city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in 1975. This was a couple of years after Nixon went to (mainland) China, but before the US recognized the People's Republic of China (rather than the ROC government in Taipei) as the legal government of the country. So matters were in diplomatic limbo at the time, and the statue may have been a PR effort to try to stave off the big switch.

It turns out there's a local connection here. Sun Yat Sen moved from China to Honolulu at around age 13 and attended school here, and returned years later while planning to overthrow the Manchu dynasty. Some sources insist he was actually born in Hawaii, and there's even a purported Hawaiian birth certificate out there. I think the idea here is that being born in Hawaii would mean he was a Westerner and not legitimately Chinese, or something along those lines. Which is an amusing flip side to the wacky birther conspiracy theories insisting President Obama wasn't born in Hawaii and didn't grow up here, and that his genuine Hawaiian birth certificate was faked somehow. There's just no pleasing some people, I guess.

Sun Yat Sen Statue, Honolulu Sun Yat Sen Statue, Honolulu

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Virginia Woof Mural

Our next stop on the public mural tour is the dog mural at the nonprofit Virginia Woof dog daycare at SW 16th & Burnside, near I-405. It's actually a job training program run by Outside In, a social service agency for homeless youth. The terse RACC description just reads "The artist focused on color, composition and shape when making this mural, incorporating dog related imagery/themes for the site."

I have to say this place was a very clever move on the part of Outside In, linking themselves to something that rich Pearl District people care deeply about. I'm actually only being half-snarky here. I mean, obviously people ought to have cared before there were dogs involved, etc., etc., but on the other hand I'm not going to gripe about something that offers these kids valuable job experience and a chance at a better life. It probably doesn't hurt that the place consistently gets glowing reviews. I'd be inclined to patronize them myself if I owned a dog.

NW 18th St. Plaza, Lincoln City

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Lincoln City, on the Oregon Coast, is a long, sprawling affair along US 101, with no particular city center to it. Today's city only formed in 1965 after a handful of adjacent beach towns consolidated, so it does have several small commercial districts here and there along the highway. The Oceanlake district is the closest the town has to a downtown, with a few blocks of one and two story midcentury retail buildings. Many of these storefronts are antique shops today, with a few restaurants and used book stores mixed in. It's not quite the trendy chi-chi area the city would prefer it to be, so in recent years they've put together an urban renewal plan for the neighborhood, to figure out how to make it a more attractive destination.

The city's glossy 2013 urban renewal guide describes the various projects they've undertaken to brighten up the area, including the subject of today's post, a little pedestrian plaza at NW 18th St. and US 101:

NW 18th Street was a “T” intersection with Highway 101 and presented access problems for drivers from the residential area. It also created problems when cars stopped in the highway waiting to make a left turn onto NW 18th.

The street was closed at the highway and a small public plaza was constructed. Paver stones were included the walking surface, benches were installed, electric power was provided and local merchants bought decorative flags to display periodically.

The location was a natural site for a public art piece and the Lincoln City Art Committee commissioned a local metal artist to create a four-panel piece set into a concrete bench, celebrating our views of Cascade Head.

The screen was created by local artist Don Wisener in 2008. I source I ran across once, but can't locate now, claimed the screen design was chosen so the art would double as a windbreak. I can't prove it because I can't find the original link anymore, but it would certainly be a sensible thing to do in this part of the world.

Dismal Nitch

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Here are a few photos from a place called Dismal Nitch, a historical site and highway rest area on the Washington side of the Columbia River, across from Astoria OR. The name comes from the Lewis & Clark expedition; the explorers camped here on November 12-14, 1805, taking shelter from a nasty winter storm, and apparently didn't have a good time here. The site of their "dismal nitch" was only recently identified; anyone who's ever been to the Oregon-Washington coast in November knows the entire coast can be pretty dismal that time of year, so the name and description aren't great clues.

The historic campsite area lies just west of the modern highway rest area, and now belongs to the National Park Service, as one unit of the large Lewis & Clark National Historical Park. There isn't a lot there that evokes the year 1805 though; a busy state highway hugs the shoreline, and the shoreline itself is covered in riprap stone, I suppose to protect the adjacent highway. I'm not sure if there's even a trail or other access into the historic site. The NPS page says they're thinking about adding a trail someday, which suggests there isn't one now.

Skamokawa Vista Park

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Here's a slideshow from Skamokawa Vista Park, on the Columbia River at the small town of Skamokawa, Washington. I gather it's the star attraction of the Wahkiakum County park system, great for camping, playing on the beach, or just watching giant cargo ships go by on the river. I didn't actually do any of that when I stopped by; I was heading for the Wahkiakum County Ferry near Cathlamet, a bit upriver from here, and this was just a quick sidetrip to take a few photos. Photos I promptly forgot about in an old iPhoto library, which is why they haven't shown up here until now.

A page at Columbia River Images has more photos from around the park and vicinity, with excerpts from the Lewis & Clark journals regarding the expedition's visit to this area, including the famous "Ocian in view" bit. (Standard spelling and punctuation weren't really their area of expertise. But I suppose if you're Lewis and Clark, and you've just walked a few thousand miles to see the ocean, you're entitled to call it whatever the hell you want to.)

If you like what you see here and decide to visit, please note that the town (and the park) are pronounced "Ska-MOCK-away". If you pronounce it "Ska-ma-KA-wa" as if it's a Japanese word, the locals will be forced to mock you. Or at least they'll know you're a tourist from the big city, which is almost as bad.

Core Sample Time Line

Here are a few photos of Core Sample Time Line, the public art installation at the Washington Park MAX station, deep underground. The RACC description:

Time line that uses the actual rock strata taken from the vicinity of this underground light rail station to create a 16 million year time line. Located at Washington Park Station where the platform is 265 feet below ground.
TriMet's Blue Line art guide elaborates:
Westside design team artists took inspiration from geology and mining at this collaboratively designed station.
  • A basalt circle the diameter of the tunnel reveals facts about mining
  • The magnitude of time is expressed in the Core Sample Timeline
  • Circular stools mimic the core samples
  • Light boxes shimmer with fossil-like images
  • Some elevator door images are animated when the doors open

The time line was created by Bill Will, whose work has appeared here a couple of times before: Eleven Very Small Sculptures in NW Portland's Wallace Park, and Street Wise in the sidewalk on SW Yamhill between 3rd & 4th, downtown.

Educational art is great and all, but here's a blog post where an actual geologist explains what we're looking at here. Go read it, and you'll start to realize what it means when you see a 40' long chunk of basalt on the wall. The Pacific Northwest was a terrifying volcanic hellscape for much of the last 16 million years, like something out of a cheap SyFy movie starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Debbie Gibson, and a bunch of bad CGI. I'm actually a little surprised nobody's ever made a disaster movie about the return of Columbia flood basalts. Maybe it's because it happened in the Northwest and not in California, therefore nobody in Hollywood has ever heard of it.

One fun detail to be aware of: A late part of the timeline includes a bunch of digits of pi, to illustrate humanity beginning to comprehend the universe. Unfortunately the digits of pi shown here are wrong. Seriously. Apparently someone misread a table of digits of pi and dropped several columns of digits by accident, and nobody noticed until after the bogus digits were literally written in stone. D'oh!

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

One of the very newest murals around town is Somewhere Over the Rainbow, on a building at NE Lloyd Blvd. and Grand Ave. It's a memorial to Kirk Reeves, the late, beloved local street artist/musician. He used to station himself next to an eastbound ramp onto the Hawthorne Bridge, wearing his usual white tuxedo and performing magic tricks, and it's a shame this memorial isn't anywhere near that spot. There was an effort to put up a statue of him, which somehow didn't pan out, and there was even a recent effort to name the new TriMet bridge in his honor, but the powers that be ignored the idea and named it "Tilikum Crossing" instead, I suppose because they felt Portland wasn't pretentious enough already. The mural's RACC page describes it:

This colorful mural serves as a memorial to Kirk Reeves, a Portland street performer and musician who passed away in 2012. Reeves regularly performed on the Hawthorne Bridge, playing his trumpet and performing magic tricks to the delight of local commuters. The background of the mural shows the first few notes of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” a staple of Reeves’ performance. Artist Gwenn Seemel writes on her blog, “…he was always dressed to the nines—white tuxedo with tail, sparkly black sweater, Mickey Mouse hat... He was doing what he loved and he was glad for it.” This mural of him captures his lively presence that was appreciated by young and old alike.

An Oregonian article about Reeves published shortly after his death briefly mentions that he worked in the local tech industry in the 1990s, before quitting due to worries about the upcoming Y2K bug. In the early 1990s he volunteered at OMSI for a while when I worked there, so I got to know him a little at the time. He was an odd and interesting guy, and I do vaguely recall him talking about Y2K, a good seven or eight years before it was all over the media. We didn't stay in touch over time, but I instantly recognized him the first time I saw him on the Hawthorne. I occasionally thought I should stop and introduce myself and say hello, but I'm really bad at that sort of thing, and you never really expect someone to be gone suddenly like this. I'm glad they put this mural up, anyway. It was the least they could do.

SW Terwilliger & Taylors Ferry

Some time ago, I was poking around on the city website and found a list of obscure places the city parks bureau had a role in designing or landscaping (up to some time in the early 1990s, I think), and that list evolved into one of this humble blog's various ongoing projects. Many of the recent installments haven't been very impressive, being a collection of landscaped traffic islands and diverters and whatnot, places I wouldn't give a second thought to if there wasn't a list. Today's installment, though, is going to be hard to beat in terms of unimpressiveness. We're in the West Hills, at the intersection of SW Terwilliger and Taylors Ferry, and all i see is a busy intersection with a grocery store, a Starbucks, a Shell station, various other shops, and no obvious landscaping of any kind, or anything remotely park-like for that matter. The list doesn't explain its entries at all, so I have no idea what I was supposed to be looking for here. It's entirely possible that the list refers to something that was remodeled or removed years ago, for all I know. I took a few photos just to be on the safe side, on the off-chance that the thing I was supposed to find is here somewhere and I just didn't clue in on it at the time. I've looked at the photos again, though, and wandered around the area on Street View, and looked up the adjacent properties on PortlandMaps, and for the life of me I have no idea why this intersection made the list.

At least I didn't go far out of my way for this installment of the project. These were taken from the parking lot of the Market of Choice grocery store at the intersection. I was there shopping anyway, so I figured I might as well take some photos while I was there and thinking of it. Incidentally, this store is on the site of the old Burlingame Grocery, which burned down in September 2001. The store's owner was later convicted of torching it for the insurance money, and sentenced to 7 1/2 years. Burning things down for money is always a bad plan, but this one was especially dumb considering that the city's Fire Station 10 (home of Fire Eater) is literally right behind the grocery store on Taylors Ferry, and the fire came exactly a week after 9/11. So I imagine the city's fire investigators were highly motivated to crack this particular case.

N. Interstate & Going Plaza

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I was walking along Interstate Avenue a while ago, and happened to notice the nondescript little landscaped area at the SW corner of the Going St. intersection, with a short path, a few trees, and unwatered grass. I was in the area taking blog photos anyway, and I was waiting for a crosswalk, so I figured I'd take a some photos of this area too, and see if I could find out anything interesting about the place.

PortlandMaps says the little plaza here is public right of way, probably belonging to the city transportation bureau. Given the ownership, I imagine it's probably land left over from the big Going St. widening project in the late 1970s. The city acquired and demolished homes and businesses along Going between I-5 and industrial Swan Island to make room for six traffic lanes, and they ended up with awkward bits and pieces of vacant land they don't know what to do with. Pittman Addition HydroPark and tiny Stanich Park further west are other examples of this. I checked the Oregonian database and wasn't able to figure out what might have been here before the widening, so it may have just been a house or two, and this spot does seem to be roughly the size of a residential lot in this part of town. I couldn't find any mentions of this particular spot in connection with the widening project, so I'm not sure what the city's intentions were for the place. Designing public spaces isn't really their core business, and it would be hard to call this one a success. More recently, when the MAX Yellow Line went in along Interstate Avenue, TriMet and the city suddenly had a big pot of urban renewal cash to play with, and for some reason they didn't throw any at this place. I assume hey must have overlooked it (which would be quite easy to do); otherwise it would have been a great place to add some bioswales, and another big sculpture of a heroic salmon swimming upstream or something.

Waterfall Fountain, Pioneer Courthouse Square

Here's a slideshow and a Vine clip of the "waterfall fountain" in Pioneer Courthouse Square, lining the entrance to the underground Visitors Center (previously a TriMet ticket booth and lost-and-found office). If you come across old photos of the fountain, you'll notice that it was once clad in a gaudy checkerboard of purple and blue tiles. I'm not sure when these were removed, but they looked like bathroom tile -- dated bathroom tile -- and the fountain looks better without them. The transcript of a lecture by Will Martin, the square's designer, has a bit about the design of the fountain and how it fit into the square's overall 1980s-Roman look.

The element you see in front of you, the generation of that came from fallen Roman art, but it’s totally modified. The elements you see on each side are what we would call a Boussioure, the big stones that make up this huge arch. The lectern in the middle is still a symbol of the keystone, but it is also electric, so it has a double kind of connotation. The fallen arch is also a fountain. Imagine the interpretation of a collapsed classical ruin that’s been sitting in an area for 500 years and there’s spring water welling up underneath it and the water runs over the rocks and it has all this wonderful vegetation, so it’s a very romantic idea.

[inaudible question]

Sure. The slots is where the water comes out - we’ll get a little closer if you have a minute, and I apologize for its ragged look, it isn’t finish yet. They have a lot of grouting to do yet and some tile to replace. They’ve been replacing some of the metal mouths inthese things, because they’re not level, so there’s a lot of work to be done. But it also provides an entryway, it’s the focal point to the square and it’s the main front door to the level of [inaudible]. We call it lower level, don’t refer to it as a basement, it’s not a basement. It is on grade with the square. We have nineteen feet of grade [inaudible. Really the only competitors of [inaudible] capturing about 17,000 square feet of usable space down below. A lot of that will be leasable to help finance the support of this thing.

So my head wasn’t all in the stars, it was also in the cash register. So, TriMet already has the corner, and we’ve got other leases in place down here. We’ve got a lot of storage over on the right and so on. We can talk about that later, but this column symbolic arch is also the front door. We have a pool of shallow water in which kids can play. I hope they get ducks and [inaudible].


[inaudible question]

The fountain was a recycled water system. The pumps on both sides underneath the fountain, it also ties the water in the water channels and gets the water in the [inaudible]. It’s all filtered and recycled There’s some make-up water naturally, it needs some for evaporation and all that, but it is truly economical.

Life Cycle of a Sun Flower

The next installment in our ongoing public mural project is Life Cycle of a Sun Flower, outside the Albina Press coffee shop at N. Albina Avenue & Blandena St. Its RACC page describes the design and how it came about:

The mural panels use the life cycle of a sunflower as a metaphor to reflect the cyclical change within this community, that is undergoing dramatic economic change. The artist’s hope is that this artwork will act as a catalyst for sharing and facilitating dialogue.

Reynolds High School art teacher Katie Sullivan used this mural project as a learning experience for six students from the Native American Youth Association and Jefferson High School. The students learned about composition, design, and painting, and shared a community experience within the neighborhood.

I couldn't get photos of all of the life cycle panels because the outside tables were full of hipsters and their Macbooks, and (as usual) I wasn't in much of a mood for interacting with people. In any case, looking at it you wouldn't guess that it was created by high school art students. You'd think there would have been a news story or two about the project, since the news loves stuff like this. I can't find anything though. I did find a story about a recent mural at the Reynolds High School cafeteria, advised by the same art teacher, as well as the school art department's Tumblr. On one hand it's cool they have a Tumblr. On the other, thinking about things I drew, or attempted to draw, when I was that age, the idea of having any of that stuff on the internet is kind of terrifying. I seem to recall there were a lot of crudely drawn starships and fantasy novel maps, with a few crudely drawn sports cars here and there.

Regarding the mural's sunflower metaphor for the neighborhood, not so many years ago the word "Albina" was synonymous with empty storefronts, decay, drugs, gangs, and poverty, or at least that's how the area was inevitably portrayed in the local media. In 2014, the same neighborhood is home to swanky artisanal coffee shops and the upscale white people who patronize them. The mural description manages to note this change in a very mild and diplomatic way, without ever coming out and saying "gentrification". In lieu of going on and on about that yet again, and wringing my hands about economic trends across the city, and existing residents being displaced, let me point you at "The New Donut", a recent Urbanophile article about the "hip, expensive urban center, declining inner-ring suburbs" phenomenon. In Portland's case, the struggling inner ring includes the Rockwood area (along the Portland-Gresham border), and some unincorporated areas of Washington County, including parts of Aloha. Meanwhile the city continues its effort to expand the trendy urban part of the city, such as the way they've been pouring PDC redevelopment money all over the Lents neighborhood in recent years. At this rate maybe Aloha and Rockwood will get cool murals about economic change someday, perhaps a few decades from now when a future generation of hipsters discovers them. (Meanwhile the previous residents of those areas end up out in Woodburn and Estacada, again in search of housing they can afford.)

PSU Urban Plaza Fountains

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Here are a few photos of the trio of fountains in the PSU Urban Plaza, on the Portland State campus at SW 5th & Montgomery. Two of the three fountains are sort of tilted aqueduct structures, with water flowing off of both the low and high ends. Water runs down to the low ends and then off, and the design suggests to the viewer that water also flows flows uphill and off the high end as well. Obviously that's not what's actually going on, but at a casual glance it kind of looks that way. The planters next to the fountains are a later circa-2011 addition, part of the city's endless handwringing about stormwater management.

A 2010 PSU Vanguard article questioned whether all the fountains around the campus were really worth the expense. (The others include Farewell to Orpheus on the Park Blocks, and the tiny one outside the Student Health Center.) Apparently the Urban Plaza fountains are prone to leaks and mechanical breakdowns, and the university's fountains cost as much as $300,000 per fountain per year to maintain. (This is on top of the initial construction costs; the marble for the fountain alone ran around $400k).

The fountains were officially renamed in 2012 in honor of the late Joyce N. Furman, a local philanthropist who had given generously to the university over the years. Or at least one of the three fountains was renamed; I wasn't sure the name applies to all three, so I went with the older generic name as a post title. The sign in the plaza says "fountain", singular, so it's possible the other two are being reserved for equally generous future donors. It would be unlike PSU to pass up a naming rights opportunity like that.

MIKE Mural

Our next installment on the ongoing public mural tour is the MIKE Mural, located outside a dialysis clinic at NE 7th & Hancock. It's part of the quasi-public RACC mural program, and they have a brief description of it.

The purpose of the MIKE (Multicultural Integrated Kidney Education Program) Mural is to create a compelling work of public art that targets youth, and raises their awareness around kidney health. Made and designed with the help of students from POIC (Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center/Rosemary Anderson High School), the mural seeks to empower youth to be ambassadors of health in service to their diverse communities through mentorship, partnership, and the promotion of healthy kidneys.

So I gather the shiny happy people in the mural are all leading active Northwest lifestyles despite needing dialysis. The description doesn't exactly say that, but I think that's what's implied.

The PSU Vanguard did a profile of muralist Robin Corbo, dubbing her "The Marvelous Muralist". This is one of several murals she's created around Portland. You'll probably be seeing the others here sooner or later, just knowing how these blog projects of mine usually go.

McCoy Fountain

Here are a couple of video clips of the fountain in North Portland's McCoy Park, near the corner of Trenton St. & Newman Avenue, once again showing why I won't be winning any Oscars anytime soon. It's your basic fun-for-the-kids water jet fountain, which is an increasingly popular thing now that the state health authorities frown on public wading pools. A fountain guide from the Parks Bureau (which took over the city's fountains from the Water Bureau a few years ago) has a brief description of it:

Built in 2006, McCoy Fountain was designed by Murase Associates. It is the first decorative municipal fountain in north Portland. The playful water feature sits at the south end of McCoy Park in the New Columbia neighborhood. The Housing Authority of Portland, master developer of New Columbia and McCoy Park, commissioned the fountain for people of all ages to enjoy. McCoy Fountain is located across from housing for seniors and adjacent to the neighborhood grocery store and coffee house.

It recirculates nearly 8,000 gallons of water. Water spouts at random intervals at heights of up to 6 feet from 35 jets. It's a "guessing" fountain - people guess which spouts will erupt next in the 710-sq-ft oval area bounded by seating ledges.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hope is Vital

The next mural on our ongoing tour is Hope is Vital, at the corner of NE Grand and Weidler. The RACC description:

This mural’s purpose is to create global solidarity and educate the Portland community about Portland’s sister city, Mutare, Zimbabwe, and humanitarian efforts there. Underneath the inspiring message, “Hope is Vital,” the sun shines on a yellow medical clinic Portland helped build for its sister city. In a show of support, persons from both Portland and Mutare hold hands, dance, and drum to celebrate life, above the text “it takes a planet to save a village.”

The sister city relationship began in 1991, and unlike many of Portland's sister city relationships, the Portland-Mutare Sister City Association focuses on humanitarian work, specifically HIV prevention and treatment. The city of Mutare is the third largest in Zimbabwe (according to Wikipedia), just 8km from the Mozambique border, with a population a shade over 260,000.

Bella venti-tre e Thurman

The next public mural on our ongoing tour is Bella venti-tre e Thurman, located outside the Vespa dealership at the busy corner of NW 23rd & Vaughn. The mural was sponsored by the dealership along with a few other area businesses, all of which appear in the mural. Its RACC page describes it:

Initially appearing as a vibrant scene in an Italian village, closer examination reveals that the bustling activity is in fact Northwest Portland. Side streets reveal craftsman-style homes and well-known sites such as the Chapman Elementary School during the yearly Vaux's Swifts invasion. The mural seeks to show the essence of the neighborhood and provide a colorful attraction with fun details to discover.

For any prospective tourists out there, you should be aware that the real Portland isn't quite as vibrant and Mediterranean as the mural suggests, as fun as that would be. The mural's pleasant to look at, though, and it brightens up a part of 23rd where residential NW Portland segues into the gritty NW Industrial District. I'm pretty sure there was just a boring blank wall here before the mural went in.

This was one of the last designs by local mural artist Larry Kangas, who died in November 2013. There's a gallery of his other murals on his website.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sullivan's Gulch 1806 and Confluences in Time

The next mural on our ongoing public mural tour has the ungainly title Sullivan's Gulch 1806 and Confluences in Time, a neighborhood nature-and-history mural for the Sullivan's Gulch neighborhood. It's located at NE 17th & Weidler, on the back wall of the Broadway Grill & Brewery. It's a decent design, and it's kind of a shame they chose to only paint a small portion of an otherwise blank wall. The description from its RACC page:

The mural showcases the Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood as it appeared 200 years ago with 47 different native plants and animals. The mural border depicts Native American petroglyphs along with hobo signs from the 1930s. The mural is a culminating work for the Grace Academy Confluence Project, Untold Stores, and Unsung Heroes.

The mural dates to 2006, a year newer than the Street Twig sculpture (and its associated condo building) one block west of here. Every so often the city tries its hand at making the Sullivan's Gulch neighborhood trendy, and turning the retail strip along NE Broadway into the next Hawthorne or Pearl District. It never quite pans out, but the neighborhood sort of muddles through it and picks up whatever goodies the city throws its way. The mid-2000s effort bumped up against the end of the great real estate bubble, but there's a renewed push on now, albeit mostly west of here for the time being. The CL Line streetcar arrived a bit over a year ago, and now the area around the 7th Avenue MAX station is a giant construction zone, with multiple large buildings going up at once. Sooner or later the vacant lot behind the brewery will be too valuable not to build on, and at that point the mural will go away, presumably having served its purpose.

Bales Wetlands Natural Area

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Our next adventure is another rare excursion into suburbia. This time we're visiting Aloha's Bales Wetlands Natural Area, next to the big strip mall at SW Farmington and Kinnaman. You'll notice that most of these photos are taken while peeking over a chain-link fence. Like the Vanport Wetlands in North Portland (and many other designated wetland areas), the Bales Wetlands are fenced off and not open to the public. No trails, no interpretive signs, nothing. But you're perfectly welcome to come and watch birds from outside the park. Washington County is investigating building a trail through the park to connect the shopping center on one side with the homes and apartments on the other, but that remains at the conceptual stage for the time being. There's also an ongoing SOLV cleanup effort here that began in 2003, pulling up Himalayan blackberries and other invasive plants, and removing nutria that had taken up residence here. SOLV is known primarily for their annual beach cleanup, which is promoted as family fun at the beach for do-gooding Portlanders. Pulling blackberries in a muddy wetland next to a suburban strip mall doesn't have the same sort of cachet, and it probably only attracts hardcore dedicated volunteers.

Aloha's flood-prone and neglected Butternut Creek begins here or somewhere nearby. It flows west past (and sometimes on top of) suburban backyards for a while, similar to SE Portland's Johnson Creek, before entering farm country at the Urban Growth Boundary on SW 209th. It continues from there until it joins the Tualatin River, which in turn flows into the Willamette at West Linn. From there, it's on to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. A portion of the Tualatin River is diverted through a canal to Oswego Lake, so water that begins here may eventually end up as part of the view from someone's gazillion-dollar lake house. As you might recall, Oswego Lake is privately owned by the local uber-HOA, and nonresidents are forbidden to so much as touch the precious (but bacteria-laden) water, on pain of getting tasered or something. Even though some of it is the same exact water that flowed out of Bales Wetlands and past the abandoned fridges and shopping carts in Butternut Creek first. At some point along the way, the water temporarily becomes a pure and precious resource with its own security guards. I suppose the magic happens at the Oswego Canal inlet on the Tualatin, although it's not clear to me what sort of dark arts are involved in the transformation.

The adjacent shopping center dates to 1991, and it replaced the smaller, circa-1973 Farmington Mall. When the "expansion" (more of a tear down and rebuild, as I recall) was proposed in 1990, the owners proposed to fill and build on a portion of the wetlands next door. Neighborhood residents weren't keen on the idea, in part because filling wetlands would likely increase flooding along Butternut Creek, but the county gave tentative approval in June 1990, and final approval in December of that year, with certain conditions around wetlands and traffic congestion. The articles don't spell this out in precise terms, but I suspect the park exists as the wetlands mitigation part of the expansion deal. I also suspect the park's named after the owner of the Bales Thriftway (now Bales Marketplace) grocery store, the anchor tenant of both the original and current shopping centers. Maybe that helped grease the skids to get the deal done, I dunno.

The reason I was out here in the first place is that I was doing a bit of volunteer work. One of the newer tenants in the mini-mall is the little Aloha Community Library, which was founded in 2011. Washington County doesn't have a single county-wide library system the way Multnomah County does. Instead, each city has its own library system, and in turn those systems are members of the Washington County Cooperative Library Service. This provides for common library cards, inter-library loans, and so forth, and funding through county-wide library levies, but cities are still responsible for siting, building and operating their own libraries. This arrangement is fine so long as you live in an incorporated city. Aloha never quite managed to incorporate, and adjacent cities have lost their former interest in annexing the area, so there was never anyone around with the power to create a library. So as usual Aloha just sort of went without, and residents got used to driving to downtown Hillsboro or Beaverton or up to Tanasbourne just to check out a book. That state of affairs went on for decades until someone finally had the bright idea of starting a nonprofit library outside the county system, and then applying to join once it was up and running. So far this seems to be working. In May 2014 the WCCLS system approved the library's application to join, conditional on passage of the upcoming 2015 library levy.

As for why I was volunteering, I actually grew up in Aloha, wayyy out here in the distant 'burbs. The Aloha library would have been a short bike ride from home, if only it had existed when I was a kid. (A helmetless and unsupervised bike ride, I should add, because it was the 1970s). I would have loved it. What's more, they somehow inherited a full set of the short-lived Aloha Breeze newspaper, which was founded in 1974 and absorbed by the Hillsboro Argus in 1983. I asked about it and was told they're looking into scanning the paper and making it available online. Which would be kind of fun, since the paper actually interviewed me (with a photo and everything) when I was in 6th grade and did very well in the school district spelling bee. In any case, if you feel like going to their upcoming book sale fundraiser (September 24th-27th), be aware that I helped semi-alphabetize the fiction section. If you can't find what you're looking for, I'm pretty sure it's that other guy's fault.

Fire Eater

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Here are a couple of photos of Fire Eater, a metal sculpture on the outside of Fire Station 10 on Taylor's Ferry, near the intersection with Terwilliger. It wraps around the building and my photos were taken from SW 4th, a small side street. They didn't show the Taylor's Ferry side as well as I would have liked, so I included an embedded Street View so you can see it from that side too. The sculpture dates to 1985 when the fire station was first built. Its RACC description is fairly brief:

Peter Teneau’s “Fire Eater” was commissioned for Portland Fire Station 10 as a visual symbol of their work. Based out of Portland, yet recently retired, Teneau specialized in large scale, site-specific sculptures.

As I said, I didn't get as good of a look at it as I would have liked, but I do like the design. To me it sort of evokes an abstract silver dragon, which I guess makes sense on a fire station because of the whole fire-breathing thing.. I'm not really familiar with the artist, but I see that the Portland Art Museum has a couple of his artworks in their collections, although they're not currently on display.

One fun detail about the fire station itself is the address: 451 SW Taylors Ferry, as in Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel with book-burning firefighters. I'm not absolutely sure the address was intentional, and I haven't come across any sources saying it is. I haven't even come across anyone noticing or remarking on the address at all. But if it's just an accident, it's a very weird and improbable sort of accident.

SW Barbur/Multnomah Viaduct

I recently ran across ODOT's 2013 Historic Bridge Field Guide, which lists bridges the state thinks are "significant" somehow, broken down by county. Part 4 covers Multnomah County, and it includes a number of obscure structures I wasn't familiar with or had never paid any attention to. Case in point, SW Barbur crosses over Multnomah Boulevard on a kinda-historic overpass, built in 1935. I've driven over it countless times but never gave it a second thought until now. The state's description of it:

Description: Three span continuous reinforced concrete deck girder bridge with a 70-ft maximum span on a 47-degree skew. The bridge originally crossed over the Oregon Electric Railway.
Alterations: The railway was replaced by Multnomah Blvd, changing the context of the bridge.

The pdf also includes a photo of a plaque on the viaduct, which reads:


Built under co-operative agreement by
The United States Bureau of Public Roads
Oregon State Highway Commission

C.J. Montag

The old Oregon Electric Railway tracks were removed to make room for Multnomah Boulevard not long after the bridge here was built. A news article from October 1948 indicates the road was being built at that time, so rail service must have ended at some point before that. Further west, a long stretch of the former Oregon Electric line was reused as part of the westside MAX Blue Line, and another stretch of track now carries the WES commuter train.

The Oregon Electric system was an entirely different system than the competing Southern Pacific Red Electric, which crossed the West Hills just south of Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. The Red Electric right-of-way wasn't replaced by a new road after service ended, and in recent years parts of it have ended up as much-needed neighborhood hiking trails.

The Big Bang of Peace

It's been a few weeks since the last painted intersection I covered here. At this point I've done most of the ones I know about, and the others are sort of inconveniently scattered around the city, so the rest are likely to trickle out as I get around to visiting them. Today's installment is The Big Bang of Peace, at N. Borthwick and Killingsworth Ct., just west of Jefferson High School. A May 2014 Skanner article describes the project, as well as the Unity Circle intersection east of the school:

The Big Bang of Peace was started with the support of STRYVE, a federal violence prevention initiative. STRYVE (Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere), which is run through Multnomah County Health Department, is sponsoring a range of projects this summer that will bring adults and youth together with the aim of building a stronger, safer community.

The Killingsworth Court intersection was chosen because of its location, bordered by Rosemary Anderson High School, Piedmont Church of Christ and the North Star Ballroom, with Jefferson High School just a block away. Church leaders have welcomed the project and are helping coordinate about 20 students and neighborhood residents, as they turn an intersection that has seen too much conflict into a place for gathering and friendship.

Youth involved in the project envisioned a design that features a tree whose roots extend into neighboring streets. The design also includes a honeybee theme because honey is known to increase immunity.

A July Oregonian article includes a short video of this year's repainting. The media coverage highlights something positive I've been noticing about intersection painting projects: They really are an expression of their surrounding neighborhoods, and it's not always the same people creating them. Sometimes it's hippies, as with the famous sunflower just off SE Belmont. Others, like the pair of intersections on NE Beech at 12th and 13th, are driven by hard-charging neighborhood activists and have a long roster of commercial sponsors. And this one was driven by the neighborhood's African-American community, without a single hippie or hipster in sight.

In Portland it would be very easy to end up with a top-down citywide nonprofit running the show, with paid staffers and well-placed friends at City Hall, going to and fro bestowing the fruits of hipsterdom and gentrification upon trendy neighborhoods across the city, and it would just be one salmon/pugs/yoga/crystals design after another, everywhere. I'm pretty sure that would be the path of least resistance, in fact, and I'm impressed (amazed, even) that it's managed to remain a grassroots phenomenon as it's grown and spread across town.

(ex-)Mellow Mushroom Mural

The next public mural on our ongoing project is in the Pearl District, at 14th & Flanders outside the former Mellow Mushroom pizza place, which is currently being transformed into the new Portland location for Bend's 10 Barrel Brewing. This is one of two new brewpub outposts opening soon in the Pearl, the other being a Portland outpost of Cleveland's Fat Head's Brewing, which I understand is supposed to open some time in October.

The pub wasn't open yet when I walked by. I could see they'd done a lot of interior work but the mural was unchanged so far. The mural design doesn't specifically say "hippie pizza joint" anywhere, so maybe they're going to keep it. It was a very boring ex-industrial building before the mural went in, so I kind of hope they do. Or at least replace it with something equally colorful if they don't keep it.

Cherry Sprout Produce Mural

The next stop on the ongoing tour of Portland public murals is the one at the Cherry Sprout Produce store at N. Sumner & Albina, next to tiny Sumner-Albina Park. Here's the mural's groovy RACC description:

The Cherry Sprout Market mural brings different elements together to show the dynamic harmony of nature, farming, wildlife, plants and different states of time. It is purposely abstract in order to be more open ended and create energy for the viewer to step into the mural. It provides multiple vantage points from which to view nature, elements of human intervention, and their place in nature. All greens used in the mural match the neighborhood region and are considered by the artists to be planetary and universal as they are brought into the neighborhood through the mural.

The adjacent park has changed a bit since I posted about it in 2012, and it's lost much of its twee, overgrown look now. It must be a recent change, since it still had much of its old landscaping in April of this year when a British Columbia gardening blog paid a visit. I don't see anything on the net about remodeling here, so I don't know why the place has changed, and frankly I liked it better the old way. Maybe the twee hobbity look has simply gone out of fashion now, and I'm not cool enough to have been cc'd on the memo. I dunno.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Pics: Klamath Lake

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I was rummaging through old photos a while back, specifically ones from a mini-roadtrip around southern and eastern Oregon back in 2007, and realized there were still a few I hadn't done anything with. For instance I had a handful of photos of (Upper) Klamath Lake, the giant marshy lake just north of Klamath Falls and the California border. I had never been there, but was I was on my way from Crater Lake to Lakeview and was short on time and didn't plan on stopping, so I snapped a few photos while motoring along. Legal says I have to tell you not to do this, and common sense kind of dictates that too. I'm just saying it's what I did at the time, but that was a very long time ago.

I haven't been back since then, and going back isn't right at the top of my todo list, so I figure these photos will have to do for the time being. Although Klamath Falls does have a geothermal-heated brewery that I wouldn't mind revisiting...

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Cheerful Tortoise Mural

The ongoing mural tour takes us to the Portland State campus again. Our last visit here (muralwise) took us to The Knowledge, a photorealistic piece celebrating the university library. Today's installment is a bit different: A few years ago the Cheerful Tortoise college/sports bar (which has been there as long as anyone can remember) was brightened up with a sports-themed mural that wraps around the building. Like many of the others we've visited lately, it's part of the city's kinda-public mural program, so it's legally public art, with an RACC database entry and everything. The RACC description is fairly brief:

The three mural images depict a variety of Northwest regional sports, united by color, texture and background. The murals depict portraits of Hall of Fame members from the Northwest, college athletes including Bill Walton and Steve Prefontaine, and the Portland State University mascot and other related university images.

The Tortoise was there when I was a student, circa 1990, and as I (vaguely) recall it hasn't changed since then, other than obvious things like flat screen TVs and a modern craft beer selection. It's possible they've changed the deep fryer oil at some point since 1990, but I wouldn't bet on it. We occasionally stop there for breakfast, since nothing pairs with bacon and eggs like a nice IPA. Trust me on this. At night it's a different story; we were dragged there by friends one time, and it was red Solo cups, Jager bombs, people going "woooo", etc., which is great if you're 22, or maybe 28 or so if you're still in grad school. Now, not so much. It's never a good idea to be the oldest person at the party, so we didn't stay long.

The mural got me wondering just how old the Tortoise is. The first time it shows up in the Oregonian is December 1961; apparently they sponsored a city-league amateur basketball team at the time, which defeated Nobby's 80-49, if I'm reading the score correctly. In any case, PSU has only been at its downtown location since the early 1950s, so the bar's been there almost as long as the university itself.

Harold Kelley Plaza

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Here are a few photos of Harold Kelley Plaza, the little brick mini-park at NE 42nd & Sandy. It was created in 1984 when the city closed off a short stretch of Hancock St. This was intended as a traffic improvement, to help sort out one of the many awkward intersections caused by Sandy's uneven diagonal course through the Portland street grid. The city decided to create a public plaza here instead of just vacating the right of way for real estate development; at the time the central Hollywood District had no public open space at all, and even now this tiny plaza is the only one. And even this isn't really a city park; it's still legally the Hancock St. right-of-way, so I'm not sure who's in charge of trimming the trees and emptying the trash cans.

The plaza was soon named in honor of Harold Kelley, longtime owner of a nearby appliance store, head of the local booster association, and unofficial "Mayor of the Hollywood District".

The triangular mini-block between the plaza and Sandy Boulevard is home to one tiny building, the historic Hollywood Burger Bar. I've never been there, but a post at Portland Hamburgers says it's been there since the 1950s, and the building was originally built as a streetcar ticket kiosk.

The plaza features a gold star design on the 42nd side of the plaza, because of the whole Hollywood thing. Strangely enough, the neighborhood apparently takes its name from the nearby historic rococo movie palace. It used the name first, and the neighborhood around the Hollywood Theater eventually became known as the Hollywood District. It's an unusual way to name a neighborhood, but hey.

KBOO Mural

The next stop on our new but ongoing tour of Portland outdoor murals takes us to SE 8th, just south of Burnside, where a colorful mural covers the outside of KBOO, Portland's longtime community radio station (which I'm actually listening to online while I'm writing this). KBOO is sort of diagonal across SE Ankeny from the City Bikes co-op and its giant bike mural, if you're trying to visit everything on the list. The RACC description for this one:

This mural is about the Pacific Northwest, Portland, and community radio. At the center of the work is a turntable with the people representing our city’s diversity rising up from it’s core. The forest, mountains, city, radio, and diverse inhabitants that fill the mural share a part of what is great about our region and our city with the surrounding community.

Sunnyside School Park

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Here's a photo from SE Portland's Sunnyside School Park, which is attached to its eponymous tree-hugging grade school. The land's actually part of the school grounds and owned by the school district, but it has the standard city parks sign outside, and it shows up that way on maps of the city, and it's included on the city parks website. Possibly the city gets to claim it as a park because they're chipping in to pay for maintenance or something. I'm not entirely sure what the terms of the arrangement are; I suspect it was created as a way for the city to legally toss some money over to the school district during one of the district's endless financial crises. In any case, school use still takes priority over other park uses, and in a 2010 decision, the city limited public access to the park during school hours. In years past residents of the neighborhood had gotten used to the grounds being open and park-like, and weren't pleased about the change. Still, it is a school, first and foremost, and keeping strange adults off school grounds during school hours seems like a reasonable sort of rule to have.

The city parks website mentions something about there being art here, which is the reason I dropped by. The city's info page for the park didn't give any clues about what to look for, though, so I walked by to see if anything obviously art-like leaped out at me. Nothing really did; the only thing I noticed was a line of boulders marking off the NE corner of the park. I honestly don't know whether this is the art or not. There wasn't a sign next to it, and it might be something else entirely, or it's possible the website refers to something that's gone now, or something inside the school building, or it never existed and it's just an error on their part, I'm not sure. The neighborhood association says the corner of the park marked off by the boulders remains open to the public all the time, despite So maybe that's what they're there for. Or maybe they're just decoration. I dunno. Anyway, I took a quick photo of the boulders just in case they're significant somehow, and here it is.

City Bikes Mural

The next installment in the new tracking-down-murals project takes us to SE 7th & Ankeny, where the City Bikes mural covers the outside of the co-op bike store of the same name. It's part if the city's sorta-public mural program, so it has an RACC description:

The “City Bikes” mural celebrates bicycle culture, infrastructure, advocacy, and cooperative effort. It highlights Portland’s commitment to alternative transportation infrastructure, evoking the community-building influences that bicycles, their riders, and their advocates stimulate. Artist Roger Peet hoped to inspire viewers to consider the role that the bicycles play in both the growth of a city as well as in that city’s struggle to recreate itself as one that has a smaller negative impact on the environment and a greater positive one on its inhabitants.

The store's announcement about the mural includes a sketch of the design, which makes it more obvious that the mural as a whole is a closeup of part of a bike, wrapped around the building. I didn't clue in on that at the time I was there.

I also ran across someone else's 2013 design for City Bikes, which must be located somewhere else since I didn't see it here. It's a much more metal design than this one, complete with a skull and some roses.

St. Francis Park Fountain

Some time ago, I posted some photos of SE Portland's St. Francis Park, a small and rather run-down park owned by the adjacent Catholic church. One of the things that made it seem especially decrepit was the park's old fountain, which sat dry and abandoned in the middle of the park. I think there were even weeds growing in it. It hadn't run for many years and I just assumed it was broken, but some time in the last few weeks they turned it back on and have been running it regularly. I heard about this on the net somewhere and went to check it out, and took photos and a short video clip. A number of other people were there just watching it, like it was something they'd never expected to see either.

It's a fairly elaborate water feature. The water flows out of a low steel sculpture by Bruce West, cascading into a small pool. From there an artificial stream burbles downhill to a lower pool, with some rustic wood bridge structures around it. The video clip follows the water backwards from the lower pool.

The odd thing about this is the timing. The church just announced a plan to tear out the park and replace it with an affordable housing complex. Neighborhood groups aren't thrilled by the idea, and are looking for options that would keep the park in place. So why run the fountain now? Maybe they're open to selling it to the city instead, and maybe they're showing off the fountain to help gin up some interest in the idea, or boost the selling price a bit. Or maybe it's just to see what condition the park's current plumbing is in before they go tearing it up. I dunno. My sentiments here are similar to what I said about the "Fountain for a Rose" in O'Bryant Square: If the park has to to go away or be completely redone, I hope they'd at least keep the fountain around. If not in place, at least relocate it somewhere else.

Viewpoint Road, The Dalles

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In the previous post about the Seufert Viaduct bridge in The Dalles, I mentioned that the bridge now carries lightly used Viewpoint Road, which dead ends at a viewpoint just east of the bridge. Here are a few photos from that viewpoint, which offers a nice view of Mt. Hood, the river, and the Dalles Dam. It's basically just a big unmarked gravel lot at end of the road. Strangely there aren't any signs explaining what you're looking at or even indicating who owns it. There isn't even anything in the net about there being a scenic viewpoint here. I consulted the Wasco County GIS system, which seems to indicate the state owns it, as part of the I-84 right of way. But that's literally the only concrete piece of information I have about this place. I don't even know for a fact that this is the viewpoint mentioned in the road's name, though I don't know what else it would be.

It would be interesting to at least know whether the viewpoint predates the dam or the other way around. There were once rapids on the Columbia here where the dam now stands, so there would've been something to see. In the old Oregon Trail computer game, The Dalles was the spot where the player had to make a critical choice: Go on a dangerous road over the mountains, or take an equally dangerous raft downstream through the rapids. Either way was invariably fatal, in my experience. Anyway, if you've ever drowned while playing Oregon Trail, this viewpoint lets you see one of the spots where it may have happened.

So... it's a scenic spot, yet kind of forgotten and secluded, and it's outside of town but not that far from town. If it's not a popular teen make-out spot now (and I have no idea whether that's still a thing or not), It must have been one at some point. I mean, c'mon. Even the name's perfect. "Let's go to Viewpoint Road" totally sounds like a euphemism. The whole thing's like something out of central casting. Of course then the creature shows up, maybe some sort of vengeful river spirit conjured by the old salmon cannery that used to be nearby, and mayhem ensues. But hey, nothing's perfect.

Seufert Viaduct

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A few months ago I did a series here on historic bridges in the Columbia Gorge. Since then I've tracked down another, very obscure one. The Seufert Viaduct (1920) crosses Fifteenmile Creek just east of The Dalles, near the Dalles Dam and right next to I-84. The design's credited to Conde McCullough, the state highway department's famed chief bridge designer during the early 20th century. He's famous for his bridges on US 101 along the Oregon Coast, but examples of his work pop up all over the state. Actually I've never been entirely clear on whether he did all of this design work himself, or whether he gets credit thanks to being in charge of the state's bridge design unit.

In any case, it's listed as one of his, and as a significant historic bridge it has the usual Bridgehunter & Structurae pages. A forum thread at American Road Magazine points out that this once carried US 30, the Old Oregon Trail Highway, which was the stretch of highway east of The Dalles. Officially only the stretch west of The Dalles was called the "Columbia River Highway", though I've seen the name applied to surviving historic parts of old US 30 as far east as Umatilla. Thus a page at "Recreating the Historic Columbia River Highway: shows what this area looked like in the 1940s, before I-84 and the dam went in. Today the bridge just carries lightly traveled Viewpoint Road, which dead-ends at an overlook not far east of the bridge. When I stopped by, I was hoping to also get some photos of Cushing Falls, a small waterfall somewhere just upstream of the bridge on Fifteenmile Creek. It turns out it's not visible from the bridge, though, and upstream of here is private land, and I didn't feel like knocking on doors to ask if I could see their waterfall. At least I came away with some bridge photos, though.

A circa-1994 Oregon Inventory of Historic Properties form has a little background info on the bridge:

The reinforced concrete girder bridge derives its name, Seufert Viaduct, from a former train station named for two pioneer brothers who moved to Oregon in the early 1880s. Located on the route of the Old Columbia River Highway, the bridge was designed under the auspices of C.B. McCullough, and constructed by the State Highway Department. The bridge was built under contract in 1920 by the Colonial Building Company. Total length is 222 feet. It consists of one 22-foot span and five 40-foot spans. At one time Arthur Seufert kept the bridge lit with direct current from a Pelton wheel which he operated in connection with Seufert Brothers Cannery.

ODOT's 2012-2013 Cultural Resources Guide (Which I think is their "hey guys, please don't bulldoze this stuff" guide for their work crews) includes a mention of the old Seufert cannery, which sat downstream of the viaduct, partly under today's I-84 and the rest in what's now a city park along the river. It mentions that it was once the most productive Salmon cannery in the world, and the site is considered historic even though very little of the original structure remains.

A 1920 issue of Western Bridge Builder described the upcoming viaduct project, as the state was soliciting construction bids for the job:

One reinforced concrete viaduct near Seufert requiring approximately 580 cubic yards class "A" concrete, 20 cubic yards class "B" concrete, 110,000 pounds metal reinforcement, 425 lineal feet concrete handrail, 250 cubic yards excavation.

The State Highway Commission's Biennial Report for 1919-1920 included a little info on the project, which was nearing completion as the report went to press:

Just south of the cannery at Seufert, about three miles east of The Dalles, the Highway crosses Threemile Creek, at an elevation of some fifty feet above the bottom of the stream bed.

A concrete viaduct consisting of one 22-foot and five 40-foot spans is practically complete for this crossing and will soon be opened to traffic. In order to get a suitable foundation, it was necessary to excavate do a depth of 20 feet below the stream bed, making some of the columns as long as 70 feet.

The contract for this work was awarded on March 32, 1920, to the Colonial Building Company under contract No. 257. It is probable that it will be completed by December 1 and will cost approximately $42,200.00. The expenditures to date amount to $34,284.05.

(Note that the creek seems to have been called Threemile and Fivemile creek in the past. I suppose all of these names are accurate, technically, depending on where you're measuring from.)

Much more recently, a 2003 ODOT bridge evaluation recommended replacing the bridge instead of repairing it, at a cost of around $3M. It's been over a decade since then, though, and they haven't replaced it yet. It was one of the more expensive projects on the list, and Viewpoint Rd. past the bridge only serves a couple of rural houses and the aforementioned viewpoint. So I'd imagine this isn't a top priority, and I'd be surprised if they get around to it anytime soon.