Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Harvey Scott, Mt. Tabor

Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor

Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor


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So here are few photos of the Harvey W. Scott statue, which lurks in a lightly-used, forested area near the top of Mt. Tabor. Don't feel bad if you're unfamiliar with Mr. Scott. Despite the statue's semi-prominent location and grandiose pose, he's more or less a historical footnote. Or maybe "historical speedbump" is more like it. Scott, you see, was an ultraconservative, curmudgeonly editor of the Oregonian back in the Victorian era. When he's remembered at all these days, he's remembered for being on the wrong side of history on a wide range of issues -- public high schools, women's suffrage, that sort of thing. Scott's sister, Abigail Scott Duniway, was a prominent suffragette and the two had a long and bitter public feud. After a long struggle, Duniway became the first woman registered to vote in Multnomah County. It's a shame (if you ask me) that Scott didn't live to see that day and gag on his caviar or something.

Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor

If you're intrigued by Scott for some reason, you might be interested in his New York Times obit [registration required]. In that you'd be more fascinated than I am -- I'm passing the link along, but I didn't bother to log in and actually read the thing.

Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor

Also, here are two two photos of Scott from the Oregon Historical Society, with little biographical blurbs. The second photo shows Scott posed remarkably like the statue, except wearing a top hat. Apparently it's not the sculptor's fault the statue's so bombastic and pompous. Scott, it seems, really was like that. Except the real Scott was substantially fatter, or so I've heard.

The pose does kind of fascinate me -- from some angles Scott looks vaguely Lenin-esque, boldly leading us into the glorious future (which just so happens to look exactly like the even gloriouser distant past). From other angles -- most angles -- he merely looks like an angry rich guy dismissing his entire kitchen staff after the chef botched his Oysters Rockefeller for the very last time.

Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor

Which brings us to the statue. It's the work of Gutzon Borglum, who's better known for, well, Mt. Rushmore. So it's fair to say this is one of Borglum's more minor works, relatively speaking.

Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor

The statue has fallen into disrepair over the years, and a post at Portland Public Art laments its state of disrepair. The post suggests maybe the Oregonian ought to step in, seeing as Scott used to be their editor and all. Which would be fitting and appropriate, if only newspapers had any money at all to spare these days. More to the point, other than the Oregonian, I can't think of anyone offhand who might be interested in taking up the cause. Maybe the state or county Republican Party would be interested, assuming they still exist, and have any money lying around, and are able to discuss the matter with the city without it devolving into an ugly partisan brawl. Not holding my breath, in other words, and I'm actually fine with the current disrepair. Not for ideological reasons, either, or at least not strictly for ideological reasons; the bird-related corrosion gives it an interesting texture and makes for better photos.

Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor

Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor


Other photos at Portland Ground and Mike's Portland Word on the Street, if you don't like mine.

Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor

In a few previous posts I went on about the importance of not naming things after living people, or putting up statues to them, or generally honoring them in any way while they're still around to enjoy it. That's not quite what happened here -- Scott had been pushing up daisies (or thistles, more likely) for a couple of decades by the time they put up a statue, and gave it prime real estate in the heart of the city. And despite the passage of time, we still ended up with a major monument to a man little remembered and less revered. Oh, well. Maybe a more realistic approach would be to do the opposite of what I've been suggesting: Build monuments and name things based on the immediate impulses and manias of the day, and not try to guess what future generations will make of your efforts. The bits they care about, they'll maintain. The rest will slowly corrode away and go back into the soil. And maybe that's as it should be. I dunno. It's my latest theory, at any rate.


Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor

Harvey Scott statue, Mt. Tabor

1 comment :

matt said...

I think it's quite fitting to quote firefly:
"It's my estimation that every man
ever got a'statue made of him was one
kind of sommbitch or another."