Friday, May 31, 2013

Salmon Cycle Marker

The latest installment in Art Near PSU takes us to Salmon Cycle Marker, the tall decorated pole next to the university's Native American Student & Community Center on SW Jackson St. The Smithsonian Art Inventory page about it describes it:
A tall pole constructed from three trees killed by the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980-1981, depicts the journey of salmon in the Columbia Gorge from their birth to their arrival in the sea where they spawn. At the bottom of the pole there are images of salmon eggs created by Lillian Pitt and Ken MacKintosh; in the middle there is an image of "She Who Watches" by Lillian Pitt; and at the top there is an image of two salmon mating by Ken MacKintosh and an abstract image of a salmon looking up toward the sky.
Salmon Cycle Marker

Longtime reader(s) might remember me getting snarky more than once about Portland's fixation on salmon art, usually Heroic Salmon Swimming Upstream. I like this one, though, and I'm going to make an exception here. I note that Salmon Cycle Marker was co-created by a Native artist, whose website describes the project:

As with many of the large public projects I've worked on, I worked in collaboration with several other artists on this project.

It took a while to come up with the idea for what we were going to do, but we finally decided to have a giant marker. And then, once that idea came to us, it was like a powerful vision that kept driving us to completion.

The pole itself ... a 50 foot pole ... is a log from Mt. St. Helens that we found floating in the water. It must have been there since the time of the eruption. We thought that by using it we would not be destroying any living thing, and at the same time, we would be honoring all of the creatures and plant life that once lived on that mountain.

We put giant Salmon at the top of the pole because they were, and still are, so important to the lifeways of so many Native peoples throughout the Pacific Northwest. The salmon are huge ... 12 feet long ... but they don't look that big because they're so high up.

And we put Salmon eggs at the bottom of the pole ... and a number of other symbols going up the pole important to the Native peoples of this region.

It's nice that this isn't our usual Portland thing, where smug Subaru-driving white people babble on about magic salmon so they can look all twee and spiritual-ish. You may have seen me roll my eyes at that before, and I'm doing it again now.

Salmon Cycle Marker

Another work by Pitt and MacKintosh, titled The Salmon Offering, is a bronze cast of a traditional salmon drying rack. The City of Seattle described it, when it was exhibited there in 2001:

The Salmon Offering builds on the form of a traditional wooden salmon drying rack, which the artists adorned with their carvings. They dried fish on it, then dismantled the work and cast the parts in bronze. The bronze pieces will be reassembled on the site of the current salmon smoking area of the Native Center at Discovery Park. The artists will hand out salmon recipes at the annual PowWow of the United Tribes for All Indians. had this to say about it:
While all of the artists explored interconnections between our own survival and that of the salmon, Lillian Pitt, the only Native American artist, together with Ken Macintosh, went to the heart of the history of salmon in the culture of the Northwest. Salmon Offering, a bronze cast of an actual salmon drying rack, is installed near the salmon cooking area of the Daybreak Star Arts Center, owned by the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. The artists have donated the permanent work to United Indians in honor of Bernie Whitebear, the Native American leader who, with other native leaders, won land rights from the American government. The rack is the soul of a fish camp, where families come together to smoke and dry fish for the winter. It is also a focal point for telling myths and legends, sharing prayers, and trading with other tribes. As Pitt stated. “Salmon sustain more than the body—they feed the soul and spirit of a community.”

Salmon Cycle Marker

A quick note on terminology, you may have noticed that descriptions of Salmon Cycle Marker don't refer to it as a totem pole. The carving of totem poles was traditionally done by tribes in northern Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska, and the practice didn't extend south to tribes in the Willamette Valley or along the Columbia River.

Salmon Cycle Marker Salmon Cycle Marker Salmon Cycle Marker

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Bridge #463

As I mentioned recently, I have a bunch of bridge photos from my brief trip to Cleveland last year, and I'm starting to think maybe I ought to post some of them. (By now you may have noticed this isn't really an up to the minute, breaking news sort of blog.) So here are a few photos of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Bridge #463, a former railroad bridge on the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland, just north/downstream of the ginormous Detroit-Superior Bridge. It hasn't functioned as a bridge in quite some time, but apparently it's considered iconic now and they're keeping it around in a permanently raised state. People more pedantic than I (and yes, they exist) might want to argue whether it still counts as a bridge, if it's permanently open and no longer bridges anything. I'm going to punt on that and call it an unanswerable philosophical question, and go ahead with this post on the grounds that I have photos of it, and it sure looked like a bridge when I took these photos. Cleveland Memory quotes the book Bridges of Metropolitan Cleveland about it:

The next movable bridge on the river is known as Bridge No. 3. This bridge is also a B. and O. Railway Bridge. Built in 1956, it is a record-making, jackknife located just north of the Detroit-Superior Viaduct. It replaced a Scherzer rolling lift bridge that had a main span of 161 feet. The present structure has a main trunnion bascule span of 255 feet long and a clear channel distance of about 231 feet. It carries a single track on the 22-foot width of the trusses. There is a vertical clearance of about 23 feet from the top of the track to the bottom of the counterweight when in the lowered position. The substructure consists of two concrete piers with 30-inch steel caissons and 10-inch pipe piles. This bridge is an outstanding example of a single-track, jackknife bascule bridge. In this peculiar type, each rail is supported directly upon the lower chord of the truss. When the bridge is opened, the span pivots around one end. The weight of the bridge is balanced by a weighted lever arm supported by the tower located at the fixed end of the bridge. When in open position he lever arm folds against the upright truss -- hence the name "jackknife". However, J.A.L. Waddell, in his monumental work Bridge Engineering, dubbed this type as a "freak" and dismissed it as "defunct"." (It was first used in 1845 at Manchester, Massachusetts.)
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Bridge #463

Thanks to the magic of the interwebs, the full text of Waddell's 1916 book is also online. Waddell was no fan of the jackknife bascule design, and described it thusly:

Jack-knife or folding bridges were a freak design that passed out of existence more than a decade ago. Two of them were built in Chicago but they proved to be so light and vibratory and were so continually out of order that they were soon removed. Each half of a jack-knife bridge consists of two steel towers, from the top of which are suspended by tie-rods the two leaves of the floor. These are hinged together at their point of junction, and when the draw is to be opened this point rises, the other ends of the leaves move downward, and each half of the floor assumes the position of an inverted V. In this position a portion of the space between the piers is left free for the passage of vessels; and it was claimed that "the raised floors form effective guard gates." Unfortunately, though, the said guards are badly placed, as there is left in front of each of them a big opening in the floor for animals and vehicles to fall into.

Concerning this type of structure in 1897 the author wrote thus in his "De Pontibus":

"The jack-knife or folding bridge is a type of structure which is not at all likely to become common. There have been only two or three of them built thus far, and they have been often out of order; moreover, considering the size and weight of bridge, the machinery used is powerful and expensive. The load on the machinery while either opening or closing the bridge is far from uniform, and the structure at times almost seems to groan from the hard labor. The characteristic feature of the jack-knife bridge is the folding of the two bascule leaves at mid-length of same when the bridge is opened. The loose-jointedness involved by this detail is by no means conducive to rigidity, nevertheless these structures are stiffer than one would suppose from an examination of the drawings. The Canal Street Bridge, Chicago, is of this type; and its design is illustrated in "Engineering News" of December 14, 1893."

Anyone desirous of learning more concerning this defunct type of movable bridge is referred to "Engineering News", Vol. 25, page 486, and Vol. 30, page 480.

Sadly I haven't found an online archive of century-old Engineering News issues yet, though, so the trail seems to end here. Which is a shame since I'd like to see a description of the design by someone who's not completely dismissive of it. I ought to point out that this bridge was built in 1956, forty years after Waddell declared the design "defunct". So I'm not certain that we can take his opinion as gospel in this case, despite his considerable resume in the bridge business. His firm, Waddell & Harrington, was involved in the aforementioned Detroit-Superior bridge, as well as several here in Oregon: The Interstate Bridge, the Hawthorne, the Steel Bridge, the Sandy River Bridge in Troutdale, and the Union Street Bridge in Salem, among others. They seem to also be behind the OR-99 Columbia Slough bridge, and the 12th Avenue Viaduct over Sullivan's Gulch / I-84 (about which there's a post on the way, sooner or later).

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Bridge #463 Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Bridge #463 Superior Viaduct

Monday, May 27, 2013

ship & bridges, cuyahoga river

Ship & Bridges, Cleveland OH

Here are a few more photos from my brief trip to Cleveland last March. I was wandering around the Flats area taking photos of bridges (and I have several bridge posts still in draft that you'll see here sooner or later). I started looking at this large cargo ship tied up across the Cuyahoga River. The river's obviously deep enough for ships this size, but it's also surprisingly narrow and meanders through the city in a series of tight hairpin turns. It looks as if the ship is substantially longer than the river is wide, in fact. So turning around is out of the question, and getting around bends in the river has got to be a serious navigational challenge. I checked YouTube and found a video showing a few minutes of the process: A tugboat is pulling a large freighter upriver, stern first, and we see it essentially yanking the stern sideways to get the ship around a tight bend. Presumably there's another tug at the bow pushing or pulling the other direction. And did I mention there's a lift bridge just upstream of the bend that the ship has to get under? Crazy. I don't know a lot about the tugboat industry, but I have to think this qualifies as playing in the big leagues.

Ship & Bridges, Cleveland OH Ship & Bridges, Cleveland OH Ship & Bridges, Cleveland OH

Silent Messenger

Back in January, when I was up at OHSU quite a lot, I happened to notice a couple of statues in front of the Shriners Children's Hospital. Both depict a fez-wearing Shriner holding a child in one arm, and crutches in the other. Odd statues are sort of a natural topic for this humble blog, so I snapped a couple of camera phone photos. It turns out the statues are based on an iconic (to Shriners) 1970 photo titled "Editorial Without Words", and statues based on it (titled Silent Messenger) grace Shriners hospitals and facilities across the country, similar to the Ideal Scout statue located at many Boy Scout offices. Apparently no two Silent Messengers are exactly alike, though; it seems the gentleman's fez is always customized to bear the logo of a local Shrine organization. The two at OHSU are also wearing different outfits and carrying the crutches differently. As a non-Shriner, I have no idea why they have two statues or what the differences between them might symbolize, if anything. It's possible one of them was taken from their old childrens hospital at 82nd & Sandy. The OHSU website has more photos of both statues.

If this seems like something you'd want on your mantel, you're in luck, sort of. The design also comes in smaller sizes so in theory you can have one of your very own. Although apparently you have to join the Shriners (which involves first joining the Masons) and then be awarded one for distinguished meritorious service or something along those lines. Which seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to get a small statuette. But to each his own, I guess.

I realize Shriners do charitable works for kids and have jolly parade floats and so forth, but their archaic fantasy Middle Eastern theme kind of weirds me out. Charitable works or no, it would be hard for a fraternal group to get away with a comical blackface theme today, or a Fu Manchu fake-Chinese one, but spoofing the Arab world is apparently still hilarious in 2013.

I took a peek at the local branch's current newsletter, and they seem to be uniformly elderly white men (plus the women of the ladies' auxiliary, which is a whole other issue). As this is also the core demographic of Fox News and AM talk radio, I'd speculate there's a nonzero overlap of the two. I'd be genuinely curious to hear one of those guys explain how he reconciles the two things: On one hand, wanting to bomb the people of the Middle East back into the Stone Age, and on the other, wanting to dress up and pretend to be one of them. It puzzles me, and I'd honestly like to understand how they manage it.

OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues

Two Plum Park expedition

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Today's adventure takes us to tiny Two Plum Park, on NE 7th in an increasingly hip area of NE Portland. The park's origin story (via the city's page about the place):

One day King neighborhood resident Joe Martin got tired of looking at the overgrown vacant lot near his home. The retired Union Pacific Railroad worker went down to Goodwill, bought an old lawn mower, and began cutting down the tall weeds. Neighbors joined him in cleaning out garbage and planting flowers. Soon they began talking about turning the lot into a park.

The timing was fortunate. The Trust for Public Land had recently obtained funding from the Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Fund to help create parks in Portland and other cities. PP&R hosted several community meetings inviting residents to help design the park. The neighbors persuaded the city to expand the plans to include two lots. The city paid off the back taxes and took possession of the lots. The park was completed in November 2001; the neighbors named it Two Plum Park after the two plum trees that grow there.

Two Plum Park

It's an unusual story, not least because vacant lots in this part of town almost always become infill development and cause endless angry neighborhood meetings. In any case, the park now features a curving path, some flowers, some play equipment, a historical mural, a hidden geocache, and... well, that's about it for now. The park's about to get a shiny new park bench, though, and because this is an increasingly hip part of town, the bench was funded with a Kickstarter. Seriously. The Oregonian's done a couple of stories about the project, and there's even a slick promotional video about the effort.

Two Plum Park

A community-driven project like this is awesome and inspiring and so forth. No argument there. But because I am a snarky person, I just need to point out that Kickstarter isn't really a full replacement for funding public services adequately. I'm fairly certain there are parks in Rockwood or Lents or Cornelius that could use a new park bench or two, and will never get them this way. And these areas may have additional needs beyond park benches, come to think of it.

Two Plum Park Two Plum Park Two Plum Park Two Plum Park Two Plum Park Two Plum Park