Tuesday, January 27, 2009

George Washington, 57th & Sandy

George Washington, 57th & Sandy

George Washington, 57th & Sandy


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If you've spent any amount of time in downtown Portland, you're bound to have run across the Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt statues in the South Park Blocks. You may not have paid close attention, possibly you didn't care, probably you still don't care. But still, you've almost certainly walked past them a few times.

It turns out those two aren't the only dead president statues gracing our fair city. Consider this large statue of George Washington, which presides over the intersection at NE 57th & Sandy. Like the other dead presidents, George here was a gift to our fair city from the unavoidable Henry Waldo Coe.

George Washington, 57th & Sandy

57th & Sandy seems like an odd location -- it is an odd location -- but it makes a little more since when you realize it sits on the front lawn of the local Masonic lodge. And if you aren't already familiar with Washington's Masonic connections, here might be a good place to start. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I hasten to add, in case those guys really do control the weather, or jointly run the global economy along with the Illuminati, or speak the secret language of bees, or whatever. You can never be too careful, where all-powerful secret societies are concerned. On the other hand, they might just be a place for old guys to go for a nice evening of scotch and stag films -- not that there's anything wrong with that either, to be honest. I don't know about you, but right now I'd much rather do that than be responsible for the state of the global economy.

George Washington, 57th & Sandy

One mildly weird detail: The statue's Smithsonian inventory page indicates the city owns/administers the statue itself, although it sits on private property. I guess there wasn't a clear separation of lodge and state back then, in those pre-Bowling Alone days.

George Washington, 57th & Sandy

Ignoring the obscure and not-very-picturesque setting for a moment, it's a fairly decent statue, even if ol' George seems to be a bit on the, ah, well-fed side. And it's a bit heavy on the ruffles. But hey, it had an Italian-Texan sculptor, so a bit of erring in the fantasy-Roman-Emperor direction is understandable, I guess. It seems there's another George W. of his down in Austin (see this photo page) but it looks like theirs and ours are not identical, which is nice. Similar, but not identical. There's another in Mexico City, again similar but not identical. I'd never heard of the sculptor before, but apparently he was a big deal down in Texas. Even today, there's a Coppini Academy named in his honor, down in San Antonio.

George Washington, 57th & Sandy

More about our George W., via the Series of Tubes:
Waymarking
Portland Public Art
PortlandBridges

George Washington, 57th & Sandy

I've occasionally ranted about the increasing practice of naming things after living people. I've recently discovered another peril: Naming racehorses after famous historical figures. Consider a recent headline, from the 2007 Breeder's Cup: "Curlin takes Classic; George Washington euthanized on track". Yikes!!!

George Washington, 57th & Sandy

Also, there's a restaurant on US26 on the way to Sandy that offers a "George Washington burger", served with pie cherries and sour cream. You know, that might actually be good. Well, that or disgusting. It's hard to say without having tried it. Although if they'd just add some bacon, I think they might have a winner on their hands...

George Washington, 57th & Sandy

George Washington, 57th & Sandy

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