Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Look what I saw while on the PCPA Tour Guide tour when we rode the MAX Yellow Line to learn about TriMet's public art on display!
Yep! It's a Paul Bunyan statue! While he's not part of the TriMet public art on the MAX Yellow Line, he's certainly worthy of a post.
Here's what I found about him, online at The Oregonian:
North Portland's Paul Bunyan is officially historic
by Lynne Terry, The Oregonian
Monday February 09, 2009, 9:15 PM
It's official: North Portland's quirky Paul Bunyan has joined the National Register of Historic Places.
The 31-foot-tall statue, created in 1959 to mark Oregon's centennial, was recognized as a "well-crafted example of roadside architecture."
"It encapsulates how people thought about their state and where they lived in a set period of time," said Ian Johnson, historian at the State Historic Preservation Office.
There are more than 1,800 other landmarks in the state listed in the national register, from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood to the USS Blueback submarine at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
But the Paul Bunyan statue is Oregon's only roadside architecture in the register.
It was commissioned by the Kenton Businessman's Club to greet the millions of visitors to the Centennial Exposition, set up at the current-day Expo Center in North Portland at a time when Interstate Avenue was the main gateway to Portland.
"People were really proud of it," Johnson said. "Paul Bunyan was a really popular figure at the time. Even though Paul Bunyan is a Minnesota legend, it made sense to folks out here because the timber industry was really important in Oregon."
It was designed by a father and son team, Victor R. and Victor A. Nelson, who owned and operated the nearby Kenton Machine Works. They built the statue's steel structure and then moved it into place, finishing it off with concrete, plaster and paint.
"It was not inexpensive or easy to do," Johnson said. "It actually has quite a bit of craftsmanship." Unlike lesser lumberjacks that straddle roadsides in the U.S., this one has impressive detail, like molded shoe laces and buttons. The eyes are raised as well, and the pockets and belt loops were not just painted -- they were cut out.
The statue was nominated for the register in part by Maiya Martin, a University of Oregon student, and Bette Davis Nelson, the widow of Victor R. Nelson.
"I wanted to honor my husband," Nelson, 75, of Lake Oswego told The Oregonian last year. "Vic was so proud and thankful for the statue and what it stands for."
Last year, a businessman offered to buy the statue and move it to North Carolina. The Kenton Neighborhood Association, which owns the statue, ruled that out. In October, Oregon's State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation voted unanimously in favor of the nomination. Being including in the National Register doesn't bring much besides bragging rights, Johnson said.
But there is only one other Paul Bunyan statue in the National Register, a relatively puny 18-footer in Bemidji, Minn.
Neither is exactly pretty. But if you're worried about that, you've missed the point.
"The National Register doesn't recognize beautiful things," said Johnson. "It recognizes historically important things. That's a big distinction."