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.