Sunday, December 17, 2023

Progress on the Elk and Fountain


(Architectural Resources Group)

Yes, it is taking a long time for the City of Portland to return the D.P. Thompson elk statue and fountain to its historic location, from whence they were damaged by protesters and then removed by the city removed in 2020.

 Alas, the project is not as simple as it might seem.  Despite some dithering about which city agency would be in charge, the project requires some time-consuming steps.  Such as refabricating 17 pieces of granite that were either destroyed or too damaged to be repaired, and plumbing in a new water recirculation system.  A new concrete foundation must be laid and the elk sculpture itself be braced for an earthquake.

 Another difficult issue is determining what contractor is able to perform this challenging historical project.  The city is required to accept the minimum bidder, and the Water Bureau try will protect itself by qualifying eligible bidders who can demonstrate their expertise.

Shaded areas show granite to be refabricated.  (Architectural Resources Group)

 The City Council in May, 2022, voted to restore the elk and fountain after it had been removed two years earlier.  Current estimates suggest a completion time will be late next year.

 Historically, the fountain --gift from an early Portland mayor – was intended to provide drinking water for horses and dogs.  All four watering troughs were damaged beyond repair, in part from fires that were set when the fountain was dry.  A protective measure might be to let water sit in them even when not circulating, possibly with use of mild antifreeze. 

 Typically, the water was turned off for up to six months per year.  The recirculating water system is expected to save 6.8 million gallons if it were to operate all 12 months.  That would be enough water to service 146 houses, according to the Water Bureau.

William J. Hawkins III, a retired architect whose efforts ultimately led to the restoration plans, told the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission that he has seen signs of destruction at the original site, which is now mounded with dirt and plantings.  “Perhaps someone is still out there to damage this fountain,” he said.

Peggy Moretti, a landmarks commission member, suggested that the final plan include bollards that could protect the fountain and statue from vehicular damage. 

 The commission reviewed the restoration plans at the 60 percent stage of design.  A final review will occur presumably in the first quarter of 2024.  “I think we are getting everything we want,” said Commissioner Matthew Roman.  When the work is ultimately finished, “This should be a proud moment.” 

 -----Fred Leeson

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