Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chimney Fountain

This post probably counts as overkill. I've got a Flickr slideshow, an embedded Google map, and a Twitvid clip in this post, just to tell you about a small fountain in an obscure spot on the edge of downtown Portland. The Chimney Fountain is, as the name suggests, shaped more or less like an old brick chimney, with water bubbling up from the center and spilling down its sides. It's located next to SW Lincoln St., along the pedestrian-only 2nd Avenue walkway, in the 60's-era South Auditorium urban renewal district.

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It doesn't look particularly special or important if you don't know the backstory behind it. The chimney shape supposedly symbolizes the area before the urban renewal bulldozers arrived, a working class neighborhood of Jewish and Italian immigrants, with small houses, family businesses (including the deli with reputedly the best bagels in town), several synagogues, etc. For more about the old neighborhood, there's a Portland Jewish Review story and a Daily Kos essay you might be interested in. I wish I had a more concrete reference for the fountain-as-historical-marker part. I know I've read that before, but I haven't found a link to share yet. I'll update the post if I can document that, but until then don't cite this notion as a fact in your term paper, or wager large sums of money on it or anything.

The fountain does double symbolic duty, in fact, since it also serves as the "Source Fountain" in the Halprin plan for the area. The idea is that water bubbles up at a little spring here. Then, flowing north, it becomes a rushing mountain stream at Lovejoy Fountain, and finally a majestic waterfall at Keller Fountain. Symbolically, I mean. The water actually recirculates separately at each fountain, but no matter.

The fountain occasionally does triple duty, as a sort of jetted bathtub for the homeless. I'm sure that wasn't a design goal behind the fountain, but it appears to do the job. I didn't actually go and ask for a user review, I mean, if I was taking a bath and minding my own business, and a stranger came up and wanted to interview me, I'd take it rather badly. Wouldn't you?

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