Friday, August 22, 2014

Kenton Art Benches

The next stop in the ongoing public art tour is conveniently just down the street from the previous stop, Poder de la Mano, the giant hands-n-book thing on Denver Avenue in the Kenton neighborhood. The Kenton Art Benches are by the same guy, are also on Denver Ave. near McClellan St., and they elaborate on themes from the "main" sculpture. From the RACC page:

Designed in collaboration with Greenworks PC, artist and third-generation stone carver Mauricio Saldaña created seven Art Benches located on street corners along Denver Avenue. Each bench features a carved image derived from the nearby sculpture Poder de la Mano, also by the artist. Each image highlights unique elements of the neighborhood both past and present.

Saldaña also created Rico Pasado, the cute bear sculpture in Jamison Square, as well as Vida y Esperanza, the squirrel & tree stump at Mt. Talbert Nature Park near Clackamas Town Center. If I had to rank them (and I do realize that's kind of a gauche thing to do), I'd say bear, then squirrel, then benches, finally hands. The hands kind of creep me out, to be honest.

Poder de la Mano

Our next item on the ongoing public art tour isPoder de la Mano ("Power of the Hand", I think) by Mauicio Saldaña, in the Kenton neighborhood at N. Denver Avenue & Kilpatrick St. The inevitable RACC description:

Poder de la Mano was created as a tribute to the Kenton neighborhood. A hand holds an open book which is carved with images depicting the history of the area and its people. It includes well known building facades such as the Kenton Firehouse, the Masonic Temple, and the Kenton Hotel, as well as whimsical and imaginative details that showcase the uniqueness of neighborhood. The images were inspired by community and neighborhood meetings and can also be found on nearby benches also carved by the artist.

So the subject matter this time around is "local neighborhood landmarks". Neighborhoods usually just do a mural if they want to celebrate the local old buildings and whatnot (see the one in Buckman for example), but Kenton went for something a bit more permanent. Or the city did on the neighborhood's behalf. When this went in, the city's then-mayor lived somewhere nearby, and gentrifying the area became a high municipal priority during his term in office. Hence the giant stone hands holding a giant book illustrated with a few of Kenton's mildly interesting old buildings.

The curious thing here is that the sculpture looks to be of sturdier construction than the buildings it depicts. It's entirely possible that it will outlast its subject. I'd be willing to bet money it survives at least one of the buildings shown. It's just that none of us are likely to be around when it's time to settle this bet. The main natural predators of stone sculptures are acid rain, vandals, art thieves, and fashionable good taste, and the latter is probably the main threat here. I could see the city, circa 2034, deciding it's just too cheesy to keep (by 2034's exacting standards) and consigning it to a dusty warehouse, or trading it to the aliens as a native handicraft in exchange for some sort of advanced technology. It could happen.

Green Silver

Couple of photos of Green Silver, an art installation on a rooftop corner of the Trenton Terrace Senior Center, across the street from North Portland's McCoy Park. The description from its RACC page:

A double-row of aluminum panels depicting Northwest evergreen forests are illuminated with LCD color lighting between panels and that sits on top the NE corner tower of the building, facing the adjacent park. The lighting color is programmed to reflect different seasons and holidays. The lighted sculpture creates an aerial landmark for the building both day and night, and pays tribute to the resilience of the senior residents at the former housing project.

Sadly I only have daylight photos of it, so we're not getting the full effect, but both the RACC page and the artist's website have nighttime photos so you can see what it looks like then. His website notes that he also created Spiral Path with Moon and Stars, the moon-and-star designs scattered around the park, as well as Glass Leaves inside the senior center.

So that's about all I know about this one, as there isn't much on the net about it. It doesn't even have a proper RACC page; the page I linked to above is a portfolio page for artists pre-approved to work on new RACC projects. I'm not really sure what the criteria are for something to merit a full database entry vs. just being a portfolio item. I'm mildly curious, but it's probably a very boring reason relating to ownership or funding sources or something along those lines.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jewels of Portland

At the southwest corner of downtown Portland's O'Bryant Square, there's a small building with brightly-painted mural panels on its sides. One panel says the panels are called Jewels of Portland and were created by Amy and Ilona Stoner, in cooperation with the city parks bureau. It has images of various local landmarks, and namechecks even more of them, I suppose for tourists visiting the world-famous food cart pod across the street.

This went in around 2008 when they renovated the square a bit, mostly to remove some 70s-era open-sided shelters that attracted homeless people, something that city hall finds intolerable. The brick structure the murals are on houses ventilation and electrical systems for the park's underground parking garage, and until the renovation its sides were just black louvered vents, if I recall correctly. So the mural panels seem like a decent upgrade from that, even if they are just painted sheets of plywood. I assume the garage still has adequate ventilation after boarding up these vents. Hopefully that was a design consideration. In any case, the murals feel like an inexpensive temporary patch on the place, until the city has another go at redoing the park.

The city has big but currently unfunded plans to essentially nuke and pave O'Bryant Square (or unpave, as the case may be) as part of the circa-2005 "Three Downtown Parks" plan, the other two being the all-new Director Park (the only funded one of the three), and tiny Ankeny Park, on Burnside at SW Park Avenue.

A recent Portland Tribune article wrings its hands about the unfunded rehab project, but also pushes the old "needle park" meme about the square, which is a bad rap I've never really understood. I'd agree that the current park design isn't fabulous, and I'm not necessarily opposed to remodeling. I wish they'd keep the park's Fountain for a Rose in any future design, and hopefully take some design cues from the park's current groovy 1970s look, because I'd hate to see any net loss of municipal grooviness. The current murals won't stick around though. There probably won't be a parking garage in any redesign, in which case there won't be a ventilation building, and thus no place for the plywood panels to go. Sic transit gloria mundi, or whatever.

Uptown Village Clock

The city of Vancouver, WA turns out to have a public art program, obviously much smaller than Portland's. One of the items listed is a free-standing retro clock at 2500 Main St, in Vancouver's Uptown Village neighborhood. The city's description:

Aluminum and fiberglass clock created by the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. The clock was installed in 1998 in partnership with the Vancouver Housing Authority, expressing the VHA's commitment to high quality urban design.

The manufacturer's page about clocks explains that this is called a "post clock", which are available with either 2 or 4 clock faces. Apparently their designs are customizable, which looks to be what Vancouver did here. Their design-your-own-clock page seems to indicate this is the Courtyard model, with the Arabic clock face (but a custom dial), the black color option, with the optional gold highlights, and maybe a custom header. At that point the form asks for contact info so a sales rep can contact you. I didn't take my research quite that far, so I'm not sure what one of these bad boys would cost, much less what it would have cost in 1998.

I was kind of disappointed to see that all their available clock options are retro looks from the 19th and early 20th centuries. There's nothing in an Art Deco or Midcentury look, or anything more contemporary, or even any steampunk retro designs. Kind of a missed opportunity, if you ask me. The design they went with does fit the neighborhood, though, and it looks like it belongs here, so it has that going for it.

Whether a clock ordered from a catalog counts as art or not is a philosophical question. My personal inclination is to say it isn't, but it was on the city of Vancouver's official list, so I figured it was in scope. It's also located right across the street from a Walgreens store, a store that happens to be the closest Washington pharmacy to the Oregon border, and therefore Portland's hookup for non-prescription Sudafed. So I'm in the area anyway now and then when allergies act up, and taking a couple of quick photos of the clock was pretty convenient. Also nearby, if you're so inclined, are a gas station (so you can pump your own gas, which is still illegal in Oregon), seasonal fireworks stands (also illegal in Oregon. I hate fireworks, though.), and one of Washington's first legal weed stores (also still illegal in Oregon, though that may change in November).

From the random anecdote department, here's something I ran across while looking for info about Vancouver's clock. The Canadian parliament building features a central clock tower known as the Peace Tower, which is a Canadian icon and features on the nation's $20 bill. It turns out the clock in the tower is a much larger Verdin product, and when it broke down in 2006, the government realized they had to bring in foreign experts from (gasp!) Cincinnati to fix it, causing yet another bout of national handwringing. The company website doesn't let you design clocks this big online ("big" meaning 5.4 meter clock faces), and obviously you'd have to talk to a sales rep (or more likely a whole room full of them) to figure out what one of these babies would set you back. But it's a four-face clock, and those always cost more.

SW 62nd & Dickinson

Today's obscure city park is at SW 62nd Drive and Dickinson St., in outer SW Portland, not far from Tigard city limits. It's undeveloped so far, so it doesn't have its own info page on the city parks website, meanwhile the PortlandMaps page for the property just tells us it's 0.22 acres, and there were a couple of tall grass complaints about it back in the early 2000s, for whatever that's worth. It's a relatively recent acquisition; the city acquired it as tax-foreclosed property in 1999. Apparently when a foreclosure happens for unpaid property taxes, local governments get to call dibs on property they think they might need before it goes back on the market, and the city took a shine to this place. I imagine they figured it would make a nice playground someday.

The city's "Parks 2020 Vision" (created in 2001) mentioned the place briefly, calling it the "SW 62nd Property" and just saying it should be developed as a new park some time in the next 19 (now 6) years. If you asked, they would probably explain that this is a vision, not a legally binding contract. As a data point, there are a lot of places in the city's inventory that have sat around undeveloped for much longer than this place has. They've had Governors Park on the rolls since the 1890s and still haven't done anything with the place, for example. So I wouldn't hold my breath.

NW Melinda & Maywood

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Today's installment in the ongoing bridge project takes us to Portland's West Hills, at the hairpin intersection of NW Melinda Ave. & Maywood Drive, not far from NW 23rd. We're here because of an unusual arched concrete structure that supports Maywood as it climbs sharply from the intersection. I ran across it in the 2013 Oregon's Historic Bridge Field Guide, Part 4 -- the guide's alphabetical by county, and Multnomah County falls in part 4 -- which calls it the "NW Maywood Dr Semi-Viaduct" and describes it:

Nine 13-ft reinforced concrete frame spans with an arched façade
The significant aspect of this relatively simple structure is the arched façade on the frame spans which give the bridge the appearance of a Roman aqueduct. It is unknown why this sort of bridge would have been constructed in this neighborhood. Along the road underneath the viaduct is a large amount of stone masonry that may be the remnants of the previous bridge or roadway.

Thanks to the library's Oregonian database, we can answer some of the open questions in the state's description of this sorta-bridge. The aforementioned stone masonry was likely part of an early 20th Century retaining wall, which collapsed on December 21st, 1932. The article says the wall had been there for nearly 20 years. A pair of photos in the next day's paper show it really was an enormous landslide, and it's surprising that no deaths or injuries were reported. Melinda Ave. was reopened the day of the slide, but Maywood was out of commission for an extended period of time. A full year later the city still hadn't gotten around to repairing it despite residents' repeated pleas. The city eventually had to appropriate an extra $8000 for the replacement viaduct; budgets must have been very tight during the Depression. I assume that money went to build the present structure, which was completed in 1934. I don't have references for why it looks the way it does; I imagine that after all the delays and handwringing they felt they should build something that looked (and was) solid and reassuring. Or maybe it was just the contemporary style at the time. I'm not really sure about that part.

As for the present structure, it's 80 years old this year, vastly outliving its predecessor. The city's 2011 bridge inventory gives it a sufficiency rating of 59.6 out of 100, meaning "not deficient", but also notes it has a posted weight limit, gives its condition as "poor", and says it ought to be replaced at some point.

There's one other detail here, something I only realized after I looked at the map for a while and couldn't figure out what looked wrong. Melinda Avenue is apparently one of the very few roads in the city that runs east-west but is designated an avenue. There are quite a few avenues that aren't straight, but this is the only one I know of that is basically straight and runs east-west. I'm only asserting "one of the very few", though, because I haven't looked for other examples, and looking for them seems like it would be incredibly tedious. Tedious even by my usual standards, which is saying a lot.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

a brief program note

It's come to my attention that Sitemeter (which I've had since time immemorial, roughly) has begun serving up ads now and then, really annoying full page video ads. I initially didn't realize this was happening since it wasn't serving them up to me, I suppose because there was a cookie marking me as the site owner or something or other. I'm not even sure what it was advertising; hopefully it wasn't anything too shady. Needless to say I wasn't making a cent off of this. So I've gone ahead and removed Sitemeter from this blog, and hopefully that will make the pop-ups go away. My apologies if you encountered one of those annoying ads here.

Waverleigh Boulevard Blocks

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Today's adventure takes us to the short stretch of SE Waverleigh Boulevard between 31st & 33rd Avenues, just north of Powell and east of the Cleveland High School football field. This stretch of Waverleigh Boulevard is sort of diagonal to the normal Portland street grid, and has a grassy median strip down the center. PortlandMaps (the city's public GIS system) says this median strip is actually a city park, or at least is owned by the city parks bureau. There's another stretch of Waverleigh on the other side of the football field, between 28th & 31st, but instead of a median it has a concrete divider and parking spaces down the center of the street. The whole arrangement seemed kind of unusual, since Waverleigh isn't a major street and doesn't go much of anywhere. So it was time for some research. It seems that back in 1907 this area was the shiny, new Waverleigh Heights subdivision. The first ad in the paper for it sounds both exuberant and shady, sort of reminiscent of realty ads a century later during the great condo bubble.

We take checks, certificates of deposit, clearing-house certificates, shin plasters, or old gold, in payment of lots in Waverleigh Heights.

Put your money in "dirt" and get your money's worth. No worry here. Give us your money and we will do the worrying for you.

The company behind the project, and this dubious ad, was the amusingly-named "Jno. P. Sharkey Company". A few months later they offered a free corner lot at SE 33rd & Brooklyn to the winner of a sorta-anagram contest, strangely enough. Here are the official rules, although I'm afraid the entry deadline is long past:

See how many words you can make out of the thirteen different letters in "Beautiful Waverleigh", not using the same letter more than once in any word. Therefore the letters you can use are B,T,F,U,W,A,V,R,L,E,I,G,H.

A word cannot be used more than once, even though it has different meanings.

You cannot use plurals or the names of persons or places.

Any word now in use in the English language (Webster is our authority) will be counted, but not obsolete words.

Today this would be a decent freshman computer science assignment, which I'll leave as an exercise for the reader.

The median was originally supposed to be a central parking strip the whole length of the street, as it still is further west. Apparently this was an unusual arrangement at the time, since three years later the city was still trying to puzzle out who owned the central strip, and who was responsible for making improvements to it, the city or homeowners whose property faced it. This issue had come to a head because the the developers had left the central parking strip unfinished; the article states that in many spots it was "simply a hole in the ground, which had to be filled at considerable expense." The city faced a looming $2779.37 bill for improvements, and was wringing its hands over whether to pass the cost along to homeowners instead. I haven't run across a followup article detailing what the eventual judgment was, but we know the eastern segment eventually ended up as a city park, not as parking at all, and the western segment sure looks like something the city and not homeowners would be responsible for.

Waverleigh was originally a through street until the stretch between 31st and 33rd was vacated in 1934 to make way for the Cleveland sports field. One city commissioner objected on the grounds that Waverleigh might be a major street someday, but obviously the project went ahead anyway. A strange artifact of this remains, not visible in person, but only in PortlandMaps. Even now, the big block of school district property is broken by a 20' wide strip belonging to the Parks Bureau, directly beneath the football field's north end zone. I imagine this means the Parks Bureau became the owner of it (as well as the extant bit west of it) after 1910 and before 1934, while it was still the median of a city street.

There are a number of other streets similar to this scattered around Portland's east side, though this may be the only one that originated as a central parking strip. Several years ago I tracked down all the examples I knew of at the time and dubbed them the "East Park Blocks", to go along with downtown's North & South Park Blocks. I'm tagging this as yet another one, since I definitely would have included it in the project if only I'd known it existed.

Sunny Crossroads

The next painted intersection on our ongoing tour is at SE 42nd & Morrison, a project known as "Sunny Crossroads". The 2014 Village Builder guide describes it:

Our new neighborhood street painting symbolizes the many bikes that pass through the intersection every day (it's on a bike boulevard), as well as the “sunny” in our neighborhood name. We will also be building a bike kiosk with a bike map and tools, and a Little Free Library for kids and adults.

On May 31st we will be hosting a bike carnival with live music, a bike rodeo for kids, carnival games, juggling and hula hoop lessons for all ages, and plenty of food!

This is part of the Sunnyside neighborhood, if that helps explain the bit about the neighborhood name. Here's someone's Flickr photoset from this year's painting party, and more photos on the project's Facebook page.. So that's about it for painting-related stuff, but I also ran across a cute photo from this intersection (taken last June) on someone's one-photo-per-day blog, so I figured I'd pass it along too.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Buckman Community Mural

Our next bit of public art is a large mural celebrating Portland's Buckman neighborhood, located on the side of a Plaid Pantry convenience store at SE 12th & Morrison. The neighborhood looks positively glamorous in the mural, and I'm not sure it's ever looked quite that energetic and cosmopolitan in real life. Which I suppose is the whole point. This mural was created by the late Joe Cotter in cooperation with the Buckman neighborhood association and dates to 2008.

It's not the first mural at this location. The neighborhood association and Plaid Pantry have teamed up on murals here since 1982, around the time they also teamed up on the (currently missing) Black Hole No. 4, at 20th & Ankeny. The 1982 mural was designed by Geoff Clark & painted with the help of local grade school kids. I don't know whether there were other designs in the years in between, or whether there was even a mural here at all the whole time. Maybe the old mural is still under there somewhere, waiting to be discovered by future art conservators, similar to how they're forever X-raying paintings and realizing a Van Gogh is painted over the top of another previously-unknown Van Gogh.

Cotter also created community murals in Estacada, as well as a lot of groovy paintings for McMenamins locations around Portland.

Murals have given the city fits over the years. The Oregon constitution's free speech provision is quite a bit more expansive than the federal First Amendment; the state Supreme Court has famously held that nude dancing and live sex shows are constitutionally protected free expression. A less well-known consequence is that government bodies can't legally distinguish between commercial speech and other speech, since the state constitution doesn't explicitly say they're allowed to do that. Therefore if you let someone put up a huge mural about their awesome neighborhood, you also have to allow equally huge Applebees billboards. The city hates that. For a number of years they simply banned all murals, as the price of keeping billboards out. That became deeply unpopular. A neighborhood or a small business would decide to paint a mural, being ignorant of the city's policy, and pour their heart and soul into creating it, only to have city workers appear and frantically paint it over before the billboard companies and their lawyers found out. This was a sad spectacle, so eventually the city came up with a creative legal dodge instead. You apply to the city if you want to create a mural, and grant the city an easement over the finished mural so it becomes "public art" and part of RACC's mural collection. It is assumed implicitly that your community mural will pass muster, and a mural of Applebees mozzarella sticks won't, whatever their relative aesthetic merits might be.

Curiously the Buckman mural doesn't seem to be on the RACC list, unless I'm missing something. Either it was grandfathered in thanks to the 1982 mural, or whoever maintains their website isn't doing a very thorough job. If it's the latter, it wouldn't be the first time.

SW Shattuck & Vermont

Our next adventure takes us out to the hills of SW Portland, to the busy corner of SW Shattuck & Vermont. A while ago I'd noticed on some map or other that the city owned a ~2.3 acre chunk of undeveloped land at the corner, and I figured it might be another obscure city park or something, so I put it on my seemingly endless todo list. It turns out this is a little wetland area owned by the Bureau of Environmental Services, the agency responsible for both stormwater and sewers. A short stretch of Vermont Creek flows through here, after leaving Gabriel Park. The wetland area is easily visible from Vermont St., but there's nowhere to park nearby on either Vermont or Shattuck. I had the idea I'd turn onto 63rd Ave., which as you can see on the map forms the remaining two sides of the diamond-shaped parcel. It looked like a small quiet street, and I figured I could park there and get a look at the marsh, maybe see a heron or something. It turns out that basically every map you might encounter is inaccurate here; much of the 63rd Ave. right of way was vacated years ago, and the street quickly ends at someone's driveway. The stern "Do Not Enter" sign there sort of indicated I wasn't the first person to be misled by looking at a current map. So I just turned around and got whatever photos I could without parking the car, and that was that.

So what do we know about this place? A BES page lists this spot as a "stream restoration activity", and another lists it among various construction projects they've done here over the years. A BES document about Fanno Creek tributaries mentions that the city's Urban Services Boundary is at Shattuck Rd., such that the creek flows out of the city right here. Maybe this is a last-chance water quality project, so that Beaverton can't sue. Or maybe it's for flood control (a city engineer's drainage plans for a subdivision just across Vermont St. indicate flooding is a problem around here.) Or maybe it's here to compensate for the Alpenrose Dairy just uphill, or it's some sort of mandatory federal wetland mitigation, or it's a water quality project to protect fish downstream in the Fanno Creek watershed. Or some combination of all of these things.

Regardless, I don't think it's really set up for public access. There aren't any "Do Not Enter" signs on the parcel itself, and I didn't see a fence. But there also isn't a "Welcome Birdwatchers! Love, your BES besties." sign or anything else that would welcome visitors. It just sort of looks like a random empty lot with a stream through it, which may explain the occasional illegal mattress dumping issues. So for the time being I wouldn't rank this place very high if I compiled a list of cool secret Portland spots to visit. Oh well.

Jesse A. Currey Bench

This post takes us to Portland's Rose Garden yet again, and once again we're not there to look at flowers. Near the main entrance is an ornate stone park bench honoring Jesse A. Currey, the garden's founder. Its Smithsonian database entry offers a few details:

(Below the relief incised:) JESSE A. CURREY/1873-1927/ORIGINATOR OF PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL/ROSE TEST GARDEN 1917 unsigned
Long bench with solid side pieces that slope down as arm rests. A proper left profile of Jesse A. Currey's head is in a circular relief on the back center of the bench, with inscriptions below it.
For related article see: The Oregonian (Portland, OR), June 5, 1955.

The entry further notes that the sculptor of the bench is unknown. Its reference to an old Oregonian article practically begged me to dive into the library's Oregonian database, but I think that reference might be in error. In the June 5th 1955 paper there are number of articles about roses, which there always are during Rose Festival. None mention Currey or the bench. There is one, however, from a former president of the Portland Rose Society, scolding Portlanders for not having enough roses in their front yards. Apparently backyard roses didn't count toward keeping up with the Joneses, which was a life or death matter in 1955.

The bench was unveiled on June 11th, 1936 (and was announced April 15th of that year). The articles explain the bench was donated by Herman J. Blaesing, and unveiled by his granddaughter Gretchen, but no sculptor is named in either article.

I also came across a June 5th, 1966 article about a collection of early and rare books about roses Currey willed to the Multnomah County Library. As the story goes, both the British Museum and the Library of Congress had tried unsuccessfully to obtain these books, but our little old hometown library ended up with them instead. Or at least they had them as of 1966. In any case, the article doesn't mention anything about a bench.

Anyway, a recent AP article that's been making the rounds explains that the garden has its roots in World War I. Apparently Currey's notion was that Europe was slaughtering itself, and the fighting showed no sign of abating any time soon, but perhaps some of the continent's roses could be saved, at least, whisked away to a new life in the distant, peace-loving New World. That's a rather profoundly pessimistic vision if you ask me, but at least we got an enormous rose garden out of it.

So the Rose Garden has a monument to its founder, another to the city's dorky rose-themed greeters, and a third to Shakespeare, who had a few choice words to say about roses. The whole thing is a bit silly, sure, but so long as we're already going down that path, let me put in a plug for yet another statue. Portland's annual Rose Festival is considered to be the invention of Harry Lane, the city's mayor from 1904-1908. He's appeared on this humble blog once before due to his unsuccessful fight to stop the railroads from tearing their way through North Portland. He seems to have been the closest thing the city's ever had to a genuine left-wing mayor, and he later went on to serve in the US Senate, casting one of the very few votes against US entry into World War I. Lane was already in failing health at that point and died shortly after the vote, and was buried with a simple, modest marker in Lone Fir Cemetery. Personally I think we owe him a statue for all of this other stuff, but inventing the Rose Festival is what he's usually remembered for (if he's remembered at all), and that's certainly a key event in Portland rose history, so a monument of some sort would absolutely be appropriate here.

Povey Glass Plaques

I was in Old Town recently and noticed a some bronze plaques attached to the outside of a building at NW 5th & Flanders. I took a few photos in case they turned out to be Art, and set to googling once I got home. It seems this building was once home to Povey Brothers Studio, a renowned maker of stained glass windows during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 2010, the building's owners decided to commemorate its history and commissioned the pair of plaques you see here. The building itself is a listed historic structure, designed by local architect Emil Schacht, and installing the plaques required city planning permission. It's not really a public art project, and they aren't obligated to document it on the interwebs for all and sundry to see. Thus, so far I haven't come across anything that names the artist who created the plaques or anything that explains exactly what they're depicting. If you happen to know, or you have an interesting theory or something, feel free to leave a note down in the comments. Thx. Mgmt.

Shakespeare Relief

In one relatively quiet corner of Washington Park's Rose Garden is a small "Shakespeare Garden", which the city describes:

In 1945, the Shakespeare Garden, located at Crystal Springs Lake in southeast Portland, was moved to Washington Park to allow for expansion of Eastmoreland Golf Course. Designed by Glenn Stanton and Florence Gerke, it was originally intended to include only herbs, trees, and flowers mentioned in William Shakespeare's plays. The garden continues to honor the Bard with roses named after characters in his plays. The focal point of the garden is the Shakespeare Memorial, a brick wall with a plaque featuring Shakespeare’s image and his quote, "Of all flowers methinks a rose is best." Donated by the LaBarre Shakespeare Club, it was dedicated on April 23, 1946 - the 382nd anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. In 1957 the club added a sundial to the garden.

We're here to see the marble Shakespeare plaque right now, and it happens to have a Smithsonian art database entry:

The relief is part of an exedra that was designed by Glenn Stanton, that includes two flanking marble-top benches. Relief is in the Shakespeare Garden which was designed by Florence Gerke and is a gift of the LaBarre Shakespeare club. IAS files contain transcriptions of inscriptions on benches and nearby sundial. IAS files contain a related article from The Oregonian (Portland, OR), June 5, 1955; and a July 19, 1970 article from the Rose Garden Society.

Gerke was a prominent landscape architect, first with the parks bureau and later in private practice. Stanton was a well-known local architect who also co-designed Portland's Civic Auditorium. (In the second link, about the auditorium's 1968 dedication ceremony, a dedication speaker imagines people digging through the rubble of long-vanished Portland three centuries from now, finding Civic Auditorium, and realizing what a grand and gracious age it must have been. It was a sign of the Cold War times that it was just a given the city would be a forgotten rubble pile in the year 2268.)

The aforementioned June 5th 1955 article explains the little Shakespeare Garden, for people who had never heard of it. Apparently it was not yet the famous, highly desired wedding spot it is today. The article explains that, as you might imagine, it was the brainchild of a group of local high society ladies, who had formed a Shakespeare appreciation club. This club was founded by, run by, and named for Julia LaBarre, who also wrote "Stories of Shakespeare's Popular Comedies Told in Rhyme", a long-out-of-print children's book.

In a 1946 article about the current garden's dedication, we learn it was also a pet project of C.P. Keyser, the city's longtime parks superintendent, which would certainly have helped grease the skids for getting it approved. Keyser, now retired, asserted the garden was still incomplete, and what it really needed was a collection of porcelain figurines of characters from Shakespeare's plays, displayed under a plastic dome. That sounds tacky as all hell, and we can count ourselves lucky that it never came to pass (as far as I know). Or if it did, at least it didn't last long.

Lewis & Clark Column

Here's a slideshow of the Lewis & Clark Column at the east entrance to Washington Park, just uphill from the Lavare Lions. I've lost track of how many times I've been nearby and taken photos of the column, but somehow it didn't occur to me to do a post about it until just recently. The column was built for the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition, a quasi-World's Fair held here to mark the centennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Other than this column, almost nothing survives from the fair; the fairgrounds were built around Guilds Lake in what's now the industrial part of NW Portland, and afterward almost everything was demolished, and then they filled in the lake and built on top of it.

Some details, from the column's Smithsonian database entry:

Shaft crafted as a Classical column with a sphere on top. The shaft stands on a square base. Seals for the states of Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho, which once comprised the Territory of Oregon, are installed on the sides of the base.
Commissioned by the Lewis & Clark Exposition Commission for approximately $10,500 as a gift of the people of Oregon in memory of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, first explorers of what is now the states of Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho. The first cornerstone was laid by President Theodore Roosevelt on May 21, 1903. The path leading to the work is lighted. IAS files contain the text of a commemorative plaque and a related article from the Oregonian, Feb. 11, 1967, which details a drive to restore the monument.

Thanks to the library's Oregonian database, I can link to the original newspaper story about Theodore Roosevelt laying the cornerstone, during a brief whirlwind visit to the city. Intriguingly, the article briefly mentions some sort of copper box sealed up inside the monument. I've actually heard this story before; I'm not sure where I saw it, and I don't have a link to share, but supposedly in recent years the city looked for this box and couldn't find it. Furthermore, legend (i.e. a story I don't have a link for) indicates the box may have contained Lewis & Clark gold dollar coins. At one point there was an effort to use proceeds from the sale of these coins to fund construction of the memorial, but I'm not sure whether that came to pass or not. (That link refers to a "memorial building", and I'm not sure whether that refers to the column, or some other, possibly unbuilt, structure.) I caution that I'm recalling a lot of this from a vague memory about something I read years ago, and the source material may or may not have been correct. All we can say for certain is a.) there may or may not have been a box; b.) this hypothetical box may or may not still exist; and c.) if it exists, what's inside is anyone's guess.

The February 1967 article isn't helpful in this regard. It discusses a letter by Francis J. Murnane, prominent longshoreman and civic activist, pointing out that the column was then suffering from vandalism and general neglect, and pestering the city to do something about it.

So I have a theory, based on the fact that laying a cornerstone was just the beginning of construction, which continued on for several years. (Here's a 1906 status update, claiming it was almost done, and then an October 1907 story announcing it really was finally done, for real this time.) I figure the box was either removed by officials right after the ceremony, or later by some underpaid construction worker who quietly pocketed it and its contents at some point during the four years it was under construction. A third possibility is that the anonymous city worker who later searched for it actually found it, claimed not to, and scored a few grand for it at an out-of-town coin dealer. Perhaps you've concluded by now that I tend to be a cynical person. It's not just that, though. I'm partial to the theories that don't lead people to go digging for gold in the middle of a public park, possibly toppling a historic (and heavy) column onto themselves in the process. To be on the safe side, I would like to add another detail to the legend, namely that there's a really gruesome Indian curse that falls on anyone who digs up the Lewis & Clark gold. I mean, it seems only reasonable that there'd be a curse attached, considering everything that happened to Indians later on as a result of the Lewis and Clark expedition. And if there isn't one, well, technically speaking I do have one Indian great-grandparent (albeit not from a Northwest tribe), so I totally have the power to place this Indian curse myself, as far as you know. And I can come up with some rather creative curses if need be. So, basically, why risk it?

Anyway, I have one random bit of column trivia to pass along, regarding a strange 1911 publicity stunt. Automobiles were new back then, and they tended to be rather underpowered, or at least that was the public image. A manager at the local Buick franchisee wanted to show his company's delivery trucks had power to spare, so he drove one up the steps to the monument, to prove it could be done, so long as you had a manly-man Buick truck at your command. Which just goes to show that truck commercials have changed very little in the past century.

Healy Heights Park

Healy Heights Park

Today's adventure takes us to little Healy Heights Park, in the West Hills a bit south and east of Council Crest. I only have one photo of the park; this blog is a peculiar sort of hobby, and I was actually looking for the tiny sorta-parks at Carl Place & Patrick Place. This actual park was on the way, so I figured I'd take a photo and get an extra blog post out of the excursion.

I'd actually tracked the park down once before, several years ago. I saw it on a map and assumed there would be a nice view from here, it being high in the West Hills and all. There was no view at all, though, nor anything else that looked particularly photogenic. I suppose that's how the land ended up as a park: It's not "wasting" valuable view property, and it doesn't have a view to attract riffraff photographers and other tourists from outside the neighborhood. Instead it's just your standard pleasant neighborhood park with a playground, sports fields, a drinking fountain, that's about it. If you don't live nearby, there's no particular reason to go seek it out. On top of everything else, there are also stern "No Parking" signs forbidding visitors to park anywhere nearby. I'd be kind of leery of using the ball fields anyway; I'd hate to break some rich person's window with a foul ball. There would be lawyers involved, because there are always lawyers involved, and you'd probably have to fly a bunch of stained glass artisans out from Venice to reconstruct it, obviously at your expense. In any case, I sort of shrugged and crossed it off the places I was interested in. That I'm doing a post about it now suggests that I'm either running out of material, or I've dropped my standards a bit, or both.

The land for the park was purchased, landscaped, and then donated to the city in 1951 by what was essentially the local HOA, for a playground, initially restricted to kids under high school age. Maybe that was intended to exclude the "juvenile delinquents" everyone was so paranoid about back then, although the article doesn't explicitly say so.

All snark aside, though, I'd rather have rich people living up in the hills next to the city and using public parks along with everyone else, rather than clustered in gated communities in a distant exurb, viewing the city with raw, boundless malice, which is what you get in most cities.

Royal Rosarian

Here's a slideshow of the Royal Rosarian statue at the Rose Garden. The RACC description:

The “Royal Rosarian” installed in the International Rose Test Garden is a remarkably lifelike sculpture created by Oregon artist Bill Bane, and was commissioned by the Royal Rosarians and the Royal Rosarian Foundation to mark the organization’s 100th year. Dedicated to community service, the Royal Rosarians are a nonprofit civic group that also serves, by mayoral proclamation, as official Ambassadors of Goodwill for the City of Portland and the Portland Rose Festival.

Essentially the Royal Rosarians are local civic boosters in funny hats. It was an all-male organization until quite recently, because letting women wear silly hats ruins everything, somehow. I'm not entirely clear on why that is. It could be worse, though. The civic boosters in Grants Pass, OR are "Cavemen", and they're responsible for a giant statue of a Neanderthal at the entrance to town, and they have to march in parades wearing pelts or loincloths or something. The Rosarians are afforded a little more dignity than that, at least.

The statue only dates to 2011, and was donated by the aforementioned Rosarians in honor of their upcoming centennial in 2012. The artist also created the Vera Katz statue on the Eastbank Esplanade, and the Vic Atiyeh statue at the Portland airport's international concourse. I haven't seen any mention of exactly who is depicted here, which old white dude was selected as the living embodiment of pure Rosarian-ness. I'm not sure it matters, but it would be an interesting bit of trivia, I suppose.

It would be a better story if the Rosarians were not what they seem. Maybe a crack paramilitary organization, cleverly disguised by archaic silly outfits, like the Swiss Guards at the Vatican. (You do know the Swiss Guards have machine guns concealed in those baggy medieval outfits, right?) Or maybe they're some sort of mystical order, with secret rituals and handshakes and so forth. And they control the weather and make it rain all the time on behalf of their precious roses. Maybe there's a dimensional portal somewhere in the garden and they serve some 11-dimensional tentacled horror-beast. Maybe they themselves are 11-dimensional tentacled horror-beasts, cleverly concealed as goofy civic boosters. I'm not saying they are, just that you can't prove they aren't.

Lovejoy Park Shelter

I've done quite a few posts about Lovejoy Fountain over the years this blog's been going. It's in my neighborhood, and I'm kind of fond of it. Besides the fountain itself, the park's also home to a large wooden shelter structure, on the west end of the park, "upstream" of the fountain. The shelter was part of the original park design, and it was designed by a duo of prominent architects, Charles Moore & William Turnbull. So I figured it merited a post of its own.

A Metropolis Magazine article about Moore, "Why Charles Moore (Still) Matters", mentions the shelter project briefly:

“Who threw this tantrum?” That was the reaction—according to Halprin—of a number of Moore’s Yale architectural colleagues when they saw his Lovejoy Fountain Shelter (1966), perched atop the concrete waterfall designed by Moore, Halprin and Turnbull. The whole Portland Open Space Sequence, of which Lovejoy is a part, recalls the natural forms of the nearby High Sierra, with sprays, erosion channels, tumbled rocks, and weirs. Made of a series of board-formed concrete slabs, the fountain works as well with water as without. The pavilion serves as both mountaintop and protection, its expressive hillocks made with a latticework of straight wooden members. One explores the fountain like a natural discovery, climbing down, scaling up, losing one’s sense of oneself in the city. Moore had been interested in water as an element of architecture since his student days; that was, in fact, the topic of his doctoral dissertation at Princeton. In period photographs, one can see the fountain and the shelter against the geometric, repetitive backdrop of nearby SOM towers. “Looking at the photograph of that form, now 50 years old, I thought: This is what people are doing with the computer now,” Lyndon says. “How amazing is the juxtaposition again with the corporate modernism in the background. The latter was the norm of the time.” Before Frank Gehry (with whom Moore and his partners competed for the Beverly Hills Civic Center) lofted an angled chain-link fence in the air at his own famous house, Moore was working with the everyday to make something more monumental, memorable, and strange.

I'd just like to point out here, for the sake of geographical accuracy, that the Sierra Nevada mountains are nowhere near Portland as the article claims. It's true the Halprin designs were inspired by the Sierras, though. If they were being built today, the architects would have the decency to fudge and say they were inspired by the Cascade mountains, which are nearby. But no matter. The "who threw this tantrum?" reaction didn't entirely die down after 1966. A local architecture critic, writing about the Keller and Lovejoy fountains, recently referred to the shelter as "startlingly ugly". I'm not sure I agree; it seems like the fountain, and the park as a whole would look strangely unbalanced without the structure there.

I imagine the city would secretly love to remove the shelter, because homeless people often sleep under it to avoid the rain, which of course is the worst thing imaginable. But they can't tear it out, because it's part of the park design, and so is on the National Register of Historic Places as of 2013. So instead they're obligated to preserve and maintain it, which presents another problem. The shelter is a striking design but not necessarily built to last for decades in this climate. It slowly decayed for years, and its crazy-angled roof began to sag, and it became a case study in an article titled "When a Master Work Fails" (i.e. physically, not aesthetically)). Money arrived with the city's renewed interest in this part of town, and it finally underwent a major renovation that completed in spring 2014.

Northgate Park

I was in North Portland recently taking photos of Portsmouth Cut bridges, and I needed a couple of places to park. For the Fessenden St. and Columbia Boulevard bridges, I figured I'd park at nearby Northgate Park and walk from there. To be honest I'd never actually heard of the place before. It's your basic neighborhood park with ball fields and play equipment, and an elementary school next door. As I've said umpteen times now, parks like this typically aren't that interesting, blogwise, and I don't actively seek them out. If I happen to be at one anyway, though, I'll take a couple of photos and see what I can dredge up about the place on the interwebs. (Incidentally, for the bridges at Willamette Boulevard & Lombard St., I parked at the adjacent Fred Meyer store, and bought a tomato plant by way of thanks for letting me use their parking lot.)

Northgate Park's main point of interest is the school building next door, which you can see in the background in a couple of the photos. This is the former Clarendon Elementary School, which was built in 1970, and closed in 2007 in one of the Portland school district's endless reorganization efforts. I didn't pay much attention to the school until I started putting this post together and realized how unusual it looks from above. The school is the weird cluster of hexagons on the right side of the above map. The unusual design isn't just an architectural whim; it embodies circa-1970 cutting-edge thinking about how schools should work, namely the "open-plan classroom" concept.

A recent historic building assessment done for the school district determined it's a significant building, but isn't yet eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as it's not 50 years old quite yet. (As a fellow product of the year 1970, I'd just like to point out that it's going to be an exceedingly long time before anything from that year turns 50.) The report describes the school building at length; here are a couple of excerpts that explain why it is the way it is:

The hexagonal form facilitated the design of the school following an “open classroom” concept without corridors or interior walls to separate classrooms from one another. Beyond the entry lobby, the main gathering spaces are contained within the three central pods. The most prominent of these spaces is the central pod which features a large concrete column with several arches that branch out to meet individual glulaminated ridge beams which in turn support the hexagonal pitched roof. A platform with a safety railing, accessed via a stair, encircles the concrete column. Several steps descend from the platform to the base of the concrete column. Globe lights, suspended from the ceiling, supplement the illumination provided by the glazing in the cupola Between the northernmost common area pod is a glass enclosed courtyard that features some original concrete playground forms as well vegetation. Immediately to the north of this courtyard is a large multi-purpose area/gymnasium that features exposed concrete masonry unit walls.
Unlike the earlier “finger plan” schools constructed during the post-war period in Portland (See Ogata 2008), the Clarendon Elementary School was based upon the hexagon as the organizational unit for each classroom and common space in the building. Each hexagon or “pod” could house up to 90 students in an open classroom environment – an experimental shift in educational focus. When opened, Clarendon “rejected grades in favor of performance groupings” (PPS Staff Report 1971: 2). The advantage of this educational approach was to group students together regardless of age into groups with similar levels of understanding. Daily evaluations were made to determine whether students should shift groups depending upon their achievement (PPS Staff Report 1971: 2).

The design of the school was tailored to this method of teaching. The lack of walls, doors, and corridors, wide open classroom space, and use of bright colors such as oranges and yellows, smaller scale cabinets and sinks, as well as formed concrete columns that resembled tree trunks created unique interior experiences. The independence of each pod was further enhanced by having direct access to the exterior and neighboring Northgate Park thus minimizing potential distractions during recesses and increasing fire safety.

I can see why the district picked this school to close, instead of one of a more traditional design. The philosophy behind it is essentially incompatible with contemporary thinking on education, which focuses on rote memorization and endless high-stakes standardized tests to the exclusion of all else. I don't know whether 70s-style unstructured free-form learning was necessarily "better", but it was probably less soul-crushing. My own elementary school, in Portland's western suburbs, was built in a sort of pod design (albeit without the hexagons and cool tree trunk columns), but it had mostly reverted to a more traditional teaching style, and the floor-to-ceiling movable classroom dividers almost always stayed closed. Anyway, here are a couple of pro articles and con articles about this style of education, if you want to read more about it.

I was about to suggest the old school would make a great McMenamins, or maybe fun offices for a tech startup, but the Portland school district already has plans for the building. As of March 2014, the plan is to reopen the school as a "regional early learner center", as part of the district's expanding pre-kindergarten program.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Portland's Favorite Tree

Recently I wrote about "Freda's Tree", the City Repair intersection project at NE 56th & Stanton, which is sort of a memorial to a beloved, long-vanished neighborhood chestnut tree. During the 1987 Rose Festival, the tree was a finalist in a "Portland's Favorite Tree" contest put on by the Oregonian, but it lost out to a redwood tree (of all things) in the West Hills, near 860 SW Vista Avenue. The contest hasn't been held since, so presumably the redwood tree is still our fair city's reigning favorite tree, in the same way that the USA is the reigning Olympic rugby champion since the sport hasn't been included since 1924.

Long story short, I went to go look for Portland's favorite tree, and here it is. I think. There are actually several redwood trees nearby; I'm assuming the largest and most imposing of them is our favorite. The late 80s were not exactly an era of subtlety and aesthetic restraint, so I'm guessing people went with the biggest tree they could find and automatically called it the best. At least it's a redwood tree, so we can blame the whole thing on Californians.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Couch Park Mosaics

Today's installment in the ongoing Portland public art project is a fairly obscure one. Back in 2012 I did a post about NW Portland's Couch Park, including a bit about the groovy 70's abstract sculpture at the east end of the park. That's the only art the RACC database lists at Couch Park, but later I noticed the Smithsonian art inventory lists a couple of others, so I went back to find them. The Couch Park Mosaics are a collection of glass mosaics on a pair of large planters at the west end of the park, near the Multnomah Learning Center. They date to 1976-77, which is about the era I would have guessed just looking at them. Some details, from the database entry:

Grimm, Jere, 1933- , sculptor.
Mosaics of blue, green, yellow, black and brown are inlayed on two sides of two planters. Trees and shrubs are planted in the planters.
Commissioned by the Portland Development Commission and funded through its Housing and Community Development Program. This work was installed as part of a park improvement program initiated by the Northwest District Association. Schoolchildren and other community residents created the tiles under the direction of Jere Grimm, Artist-in-Residence and Couch Park Art Coordinator. IAS files include pertinent memoranda and correspondence from the Development Commission.

I also would have guessed, without ever reading the entry, that the mosaics had been created with the help of semi-skilled neighborhood hippies of all ages, and the work parties were far out, man. The one odd bit here is that the Portland Development Commission owned the mosaic. Much of the Smithsonian's data for the Portland area comes from a 1993 survey, if you can believe that, so I don't know if they still own it or not. If so, it would explain why there's no RACC listing for it, since it's not theirs to keep track of.

Relying on a 1993 survey is the big limitation of the Smithsonian database. It's great for things that date to before 1993 and still exist but have fallen into obscurity, like the mosaics here, the little Lee Kelly sculpture at NE 72nd & Fremont, and the Michele Russo sculpture on Pettygrove near Chapman School. Entries for art that arrived after 1993 are few and far between, though; I think I've seen a few, but I could be wrong and there just aren't any. Likewise a fair number of database entries are out of date. Ownership may have changed, or an artwork may have been moved from its 1993 location (like just about everything along the Transit Mall), and some have been lost entirely. Case in point, the database lists an additional artwork here in Couch Park, a shelter structure that doesn't seem to exist anymore. It also dated to 1976, and was described as "Two four-sided carved supports for a trellis structure. Each side of the poles is divided into eight rectangular sections. The top section has carved masks on each of the four sides of each pole; a total of eight masks. Below each mask are rectangles painted in colors to coordinate with the masks.", and its condition was given as "Treatment urgent". Based on that description, I don't think it refers the park's play structure, which also dated to 1976, and was condemned as structurally unsound in April of this year. If it's the same structure, it's gone now, or will be soon. If it was a different structure, I imagine the city removed it for similar reasons sometime in the last 20 years. It's the eventual fate of all untreated wood structures in this climate. There's probably a great environmental lesson for kids here. Circle of life, and all that.

Walker Park, Honolulu

Puna, Walker Park, Honolulu Puna, Walker Park, Honolulu
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Today's adventure takes us to tiny Walker Park, near the waterfront at the edge of downtown Honolulu, at the intersection of Queen St. & Fort St. It's a small plaza built around a fountain, with an abstract sculpture at its center. There's also an ornate gate, and an old cannon. The caption to a wallyg Flickr photo of the park explains that the park dates to 1951, and is a bit of land left over after widening & realignment of Nimitz Highway & Queen St. It's dedicated to the memory of H. Alexander Walker Sr., longtime president and chairman of American Factors, Inc. (later Amfac), a Hawaiian sugar company and one of the "Big Five" corporations that essentially controlled the state during the sugar cane era.

The park's Walker Fountain dates to 1972. The central sculpture Puna (by Hawaii sculptor Sean Browne) was added in 1991, in memory of Una Craig Walker, wife of the park's namesake. (I'd rather think of them as co-namesakes of the park, but apparently that's not how things worked back in 1951.) The caption to a second photo explains the wrought iron gate. It stood in front of American Factors company headquarters from 1902 to 1972, when it was moved here. I didn't notice this at the time, but apparently the park also has a few blocks remaining from the original Liberty House department store, which once stood nearby and was razed in 1979.

I'm not sure what the story is with the park's cannon. A blog post I ran across speculates that it might be from the old Honolulu Fort, which was located here from 1818-1857 (and was the site of a short-lived French invasion in 1849). If it's not an original cannon, it's probably at least a nod to that period of history.

A historic inventory from the Hawaii Culture & Arts District (a local nonprofit) describes the history of the old fort:

Description: Fort Street takes its name from a one-time defensive work located at the present intersection of Queen Street and Fort Street. The Honolulu Fort originated with the Russian-American Company blockhouse. Directed by the German adventurer Georg Schaffer (1779-1836), they built their blockhouse near the harbor, probably against the ancient heiau of Pakaka and close to the king’s palace. Pakaka was an important sacred site for Ku, the Hawaiian war-god and a place of great symbolic and ritual importance to the victorious King Kamehameha. Hearing about this development, Kamehameha I, the king, ordered his advisor Kalinimoku to take a contingent of Hawaiian soldiers to Honolulu and press the Russians to leave. Threatened by a large number of Hawaiians, the Russians quickly abandoned their blockhouse and sailed for Kauai, where they had earlier attempted to start a trading post and soon built another fort. Kamehameha I appropriated the fort and it protected Honolulu harbor and also housed a number of administrative functions, including many years of service as Honolulu’s prison. Created first in 1951 as a product of the widening of Nimitz Highway by the city of Honolulu, Walker Park received new attention in the aftermath of the construction of the Amfac Financial Center in 1968-71. At that time the company, through its president, Henry A. Walker, Jr., contributed to the enhancement of the earlier park through the donation of the paved walkway, benches, sculpture and the wrought and the historic cast and wrought iron sign and gateway that serves as a centerpiece of the park.

Anecdote: The The first capital punishment carried out at the fort was the hanging of Chief Kamanawa (c.1785-1840) and his accomplice Lonoapuakau on October 20, 1840. The Hawaiian Court found him guilty of poisoning his wife Kamokuiki, carried out Kamanawa to avoid a charge of adultery. Kamanawa was the grandson of one of Kamehameha I’s principal advisors, Kameeiamoku, and the grandfather of David Kalakaua, later King Kalakaua. The execution took place on the scaffold set up just inside the fort’s main gate. It attracted 10,000 viewers, all of whom watched solemnly as the Governor carried out the sentence.

Honolulu is in the early stages of building a light rail transit system, which will eventually run on elevated tracks somewhere near Walker Park. Several lawsuits were filed attempting to stop the project; in one of the cases, the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed an amicus curiae asserting that the raised trackway would block important views from the park and a few other locations, and obstruct views of the historic Aloha Tower. The city's own 2008 evaluation of the park in preparation for the light rail project had concluded that it was technically eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, but really wasn't all that significant of a place in itself. As of May 2014 the city has fended off the various lawsuits, and construction is proceeding, with completion expected in 2019.

Columbus Road Bridge, Cleveland

Flats Industrial Railroad Bridge
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A couple of years ago, I was in Cleveland for a weekend and ended up with a bunch of bridge photos, which slowly trickled out in a long series of blog posts. I thought I was done with those, but it turned out I had a so-so photo of one more bridge, so obviously another blog post was in order. The Columbus Road Bridge isn't the main bridge in the photo above, but the one in the background that you see straight on. It crosses the Cuyahoga at the apex of a bend in the river, right next to the Cleveland Union Terminal bridge, which carries the Rapid Red Line. As I said, the photo isn't that great, but it's still a sort of collector's item. I didn't get close enough to the bridge to notice this, but apparently it was in an advanced state of disrepair, and the county decided to replace it. It sounds like the bridge approaches were kept and renovated, but the lift span itself was demolished and replaced. It's not clear whether this means they also replaced the towers and counterweights, or just the lift span, but in any case the bridge closed for demolition work last May, and the shiny new span was floated down the river and installed this July, just a couple of weeks ago.

A history page notes that the then-current bridge was the fifth at this location. The first was nearly destroyed by angry westside protesters, who feared the new bridge would divert commerce away from the original Center St. Bridge and thus away from the Ohio City area. As the story goes, westside residents boycotted the new bridge, and the city of Cleveland retaliated by demolishing its half of the Center St. Bridge, leaving the Columbus one as literally the only bridge in town. An angry mob showed up to destroy the Columbus bridge, chanting "Two bridges or none", but they were stopped by the mayor of Cleveland and a group of armed militiamen.

An 1857 replacement for the original bridge quickly rotted and collapsed in 1863. An 1870 replacement lasted to 1894, when it was replaced with a double swing span bridge. In this arrangement, the bridge separated in the middle, and the two halves swung off to the side in opposite directions. This lasted until 1939, when it was replaced with a lift span bridge (i.e the one pictured above) as part of a larger project to improve navigation on the river. The lift span lasted much longer than its predecessors, but was poorly maintained beginning in the 1980s, and decayed to a point where it was cheaper to replace it than to attempt repairing it. The 2014 bridge is scheduled to open in October; it's a lift span and is basically similar to its predecessor, but features 5' wide bike lanes as this is apparently a major bike commuting route.

This is actually the second Cleveland bridge that's been replaced since I was there, the other being the Innerbelt Bridge. I'm kind of thinking I may need to go back soon just to keep this blog up to date. By which I mean, enjoy some beer and pierogies, hit the West Side Market again, and keep this blog up to date.

Unity Circle

Today's Portland painted intersection is "Unity Circle", at NE Emerson & Haight, one block east of Jefferson High School. A May 2014 Skanner article describes the project:

The Unity Circle first came into being in 2012, the vision of artist Kymberly Jeka. Living near the Haight and Emerson intersection, Jeka knew it marked the spot where DeAndre Clark, 25, had been shot and killed in 2011. And she knew dozens of students travel that route every day, on foot and in school buses. So she dreamed up the street painting as a way to build community and to bring beauty and hope to the intersection.

This year's City Repair Village Builder guide explains the design:

Te thriving diversity of the Humboldt neighborhood is the inspiration for the painting. The design represents a cohesive geodesic structure with multi-colored triangular pieces joining together harmoniously.

The Facebook page for this year's repainting (May 31st - June 1st) includes a few photos of the event.

Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

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Boston's Commonwealth Avenue Mall, which extends west from the Public Garden through the Back Bay neighborhood. I wandered along the central mall for a while, taking photos of the over-the-top houses and churches on either side. I'm not sure what we're looking at here; I found a page documenting every building along the avenue, but I haven't gone through to figure out which ones I have photos of. That part is left as an exercise for the reader (he said lazily/hopefully).

It was a very hot day, and eventually I wandered off to find a Starbucks for an iced coffee like a good West Coast tourist, and fortunately there was one a couple of blocks south(ish) on swanky Newbury Street, and ended up walking along over there instead. I feel compelled to explain that I normally avoid Starbucks, but I wasn't sure whether there was iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts (which is essentially the competing coffee behemoth in New England), and I needed a cold but very caffeinated beverage right then thanks to jet lag.

I had a theory -- and I think I mentioned it in a previous Boston post -- that perhaps Commonwealth Avenue was an inspiration for Portland's Park Blocks, since Portland was founded by a bunch of New Englanders, and the city itself would have been named "Boston" if a coin flip had gone the other way. The dates don't bear this theory out though. The South Park Blocks were dedicated in 1852, while Commonwealth Avenue was designed in 1856, and long tree-lined parks like this were simply the vogue at the time, popular among major cities as well as muddy little pioneer towns with big dreams. An architecture guide to the city calls it the "French Boulevard style". 1856 seems like a surprisingly recent date for central Boston, until you remember that the whole Back Bay area was an actual bay until it was filled in during the 1850s. As a West Coast tourist, knowing that makes me worry the ground here will basically liquefy if there's ever an earthquake, like what happened to SF's Marina District back in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. Apparently Boston doesn't get earthquakes, though. At least as far as they know.