Friday, September 14, 2007

In the midst of the Plaza Blocks


I'm always amazed when any bus I'm on slows down to circle this majestic statue. I love the fact that it's right in the middle of the street. For me, that's so Portland!

After work recently, as I walked through the area passing time before going to see "Spamalot," I took this picture, my back to the north. Here's what I found at the Portland Parks and Recreation Web site about this majestic statue/fountain which stands on Main Street, in between Chapman and Lownsdale Squares, better known as the Plaza Blocks:

Chapman Square is one of two courthouse squares that comprise the Plaza Blocks which are bounded by Third and Fourth Avenues and Salmon and Madison Streets. The south square is named for former Iowa territorial legislator and native Virginian William Williams Chapman (1808-1892) who arrived in Portland in 1850. An attorney with business interests, he also served as surveyor general of Oregon. In 1870, he sold this portion of his land claim to the city. The north square is named for Kentuckian Daniel H. Lownsdale, who settled in Portland in 1845 when there were fewer than 800 people living in the city.

The Plaza was a lively place where orators held forth and citizens assembled. They are characterized in part by several large old elms and gingko trees. Chapman Square, originally designed for the exclusive use of women and children, features all female gingko trees. Lownsdale Square was to be the "gentlemen's gathering place." Today the Plaza Blocks are still a busy gathering place, although men and women can now safely coexist in either of them.

Chapman Square has a Spanish-American War memorial: Fountain for Company H, installed in 1914, was donated by the mothers, sisters, and wives of Company H of the Second Oregon Volunteers. John H. Beaver, an architectural draftsman, won the honor of designing the limestone fountain and a $50 prize in a citywide contest. Also found in Chapman Square is a bronze statue commissioned by the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Oregon Trail which took place in 1993. The Promised Land, by Oregon artist David Manuel, depicts a pioneer family - father, mother, and son - at the end of their journey. The red granite slab upon which the statue is mounted is inscribed with a quote by Thomas Jefferson. The plaza in front of the statue is sandblasted with footprints reminiscent of pre-settlement days: jackrabbit, black bear, porcupine, grouse, coyote, elk, and moccasin prints.

Between the two Plaza Blocks, Main Street curves around a huge elk fountain given to the city by David P. Thompson. Thompson arrived in Portland driving sheep over the Oregon Trail. He served as Portland's mayor from 1879-1882. One day looked out of the office window in his New Market Building at the Skidmore Fountain and decided that he wanted to dedicate a fountain to the city as well. Thompson commissioned Roland Hinton Perry, whose work adorns the Library of Congress and the dome of the Pennsylvania state capitol, and in 1900, he presented the city with a bronze elk fountain to commemorate elk that once grazed nearby. Local architect H.G. Wright designed the stone base of eastern granite, which included drinking troughs for horses and dogs. The Exalted Order of Elks refused to dedicate it because they considered the statue "a monstrosity of art." Many have tried to have Thompson's elk removed because it can be considered a traffic obstacle, but the elk statue remains. In 1974, after a debate about disturbing the blocks in order to complement the then-new General Services Building, Thompson's elk and the Plaza Blocks were designated as Historic Landmarks.


GMG said...

Great pictures you have in this blog. And amazingly, it's not raining... ;))

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Great staue! How fun is that! Nice narrative to go with it.

dot said...

Beautiful statue and I especially like the green trees in the background. This sorta reminds me of Savannah.

Lynette said...

GMG--thanks! To tell the truth, I'm more anxious about finding great photo ops when the time changes in early November than I am about the rain.

Mary Stebbins Taitt, I have to tell you I was very happy to find that information about the elk statue so that I could share it. This afternoon when my bus wiggled by the statue, I looked back and saw the mayor's name on it for just a second, before the bus straightened up.

Dot, you know you're right. Not that I've been in Savannah any longer than to drive out to that beach area where Mama and I ate a picnic in a pavillion, followed by an fantastic dolphin boat ride. Besides the trees, do you think it's the park benches?

Lynette said...

MST, I'm so curious--why's your age 251?

Annie said...

If you ever need a job, you could be a travel guide through your city.

It's one way to make sure something is kept and cared for - declare it a historical treasure.

Maybe I should declare myself a historical treasure!

Steve Buser said...

ynette, so in the end, history plays the trump card.... I had a history professor in college that could have made a two hour lecture out of that and kept everyone spell bound.

About you comments on the links to other similar CDP photos. I found out quite by accident that when I link to someone's site, it makes there site go up in the rankings, and therefore draw more traffic from search engines etc. Seems like something the CDP community ought to do more of. It's a kind of share the wealth thing that brings more attention to the whole CDP thing.

--steve buser
New Orleans Daily Photo

Wendy said...

Nice fountain and statue, and I'm glad to read that it will be preserved and in it's original place as a historical landmark. It's nice to see some things stay the same, while progress thrives around it. Makes me think of the Alamo in San Antonio Texas, old fort in the midst of City buildings and businesses. Some things need to be kept. Glad this Elk is not on the endangered species list.

Lynette said...

Annie, that's a plan if I ever heard one!

Steve, I figured you for a history-lover. About CDP, I've yet to get my welcome-email-confirmation thing, so I don't know anything at all other than I'm having fun putting the photos on my blog. Celine at Stayton (OR) Daily Photo gave me an e-mail address, which I've written twice, telling them I'm waiting patiently for the info. I actually feel patient because I'm enjoying the comments on my blog and photos and comments on others.

And I'm not real good, yet, with linking and such. I hope to work on learning more this weekend. Thanks so much for the hint!

Lynette said...

Wendy, so am I. I saw it again today after work and thought how lucky I am to be in this great big city where thought goes into so much of daily life.

Anonymous said...

It's taken me a while to get back here -- haven't had much free time lately. I always think of these as The Park Blocks. They epitomize downtown Portland to me.

Thanks for your visit to my blog, too.
Olympia Daily Photo

• Eliane • said...

I like the setting of this statue. How fun!

Olivier said...

cette fontaine est vraiment exceptionnel, avec cette statue, je suis impressionné
this fountain is really exceptional, with this statue, I am impressed