Sunday, December 15, 2013

Centennial Fountain, St. Helens

Centennial Fountain, St. Helens Centennial Fountain, St. Helens

A couple of photos of the Centennial Fountain at the waterfront in St. Helens, Oregon, built in 1989 in honor of the city's 100th birthday. The town actually dates to 1847, but they didn't get around to incorporating for another forty years. Not shown in these photos are a time capsule at the base of the fountain, and a huge flagpole a few feet away, which I think was behind me when I took these.

So yeah, it's a goofy looking piece of folk art, and it's all puffed up with red-state patriotism, the usual frothy mix of war and religion. The plaque even references a bible verse, so legally the city would probably have to let other religions contribute monuments too, thanks to that pesky First Amendment thingy the ACLU keeps going on about. The fountain doesn't even have anything to say about the city, or the centennial it's supposed to be honoring. And the plaque says something about the flagpole flying an enormous 50 foot by 30 foot flag; I'm fairly certain the one it actually flies it much smaller. Plus the correct dimensions of a US flag are supposed to be 10:19, not 3:5, so a 30 foot tall flag should be 57 feet wide, not 50. Yes, I was a Cub Scout once, why do you ask? Normally I wouldn't care, but if you're trying to demonstrate how hyper-patriotic you are, you should really make an effort to get the fundamentals right.

All that said, there's something strangely appealing about it. It's just so damn sincere. It wears its heart on its sleeve. They didn't go out and hire a professional artist or architect, someone who would've created something a bit more tasteful and centennial-oriented. Instead they rounded up local donations and volunteers and cobbled this fountain together as best they could. So I imagine the end result is an accurate reflection of local values and priorities circa 1989. If nothing else, it's a historical artifact, in a way.

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