Sunday, June 26, 2011

Picturesque River View

I’ve been thinking about cemeteries, River View Cemetery in Portland in particular.  The idea that would become River View, located in SE, off Macadam, at the west end of the Sellwood Bridge, starts in 1879 when Henry Corbett, W. S. Ladd and Henry Failing, among others, decided that the Lone Fir Cemetery, in what was still East Portland, wasn’t an acceptable burying spot for the up-and-coming of Portland.  They purchased 300+acres of wooded hillside and then went to Cleveland to hire Edward Otto Schwagerl, a skilled landscape architect who had designed several “rural” cemeteries, to transform the spot into a cemetery worthy of Portland.  “Rural” cemeteries, sometimes call pastoral cemeteries, were all the rage in the late Victorian era.  Nobody took death as seriously as the Victorians.

Schwagerl did a fine job and his plan over the years has been augmented by the work of a host of Portland architects, including Warren William, Ellis Lawrence, A. E. Doyle, and Pietro Belluschi.  Walking around River View is something like walking around Portland, with familiar names such as Terwilliger, Benson, Hoyt, Ladd and others all entombed here.  Harvey Scott, the longtime editor of the Oregonian is buried here, as is Henry Pittock, his boss.  Scott’s sister, Abigail Scott Duniway, who so fought for Women’s Suffrage in Oregon is here, near her brother who so opposed that concept.  The graves of many of Oregon’s governors, and Portland’s mayors, among other political leaders are here, as is Henry Weinhard and Virgil Earp, of OK Corral fame.

On behalf of Multnomah County I have been researching the history of River View, and will be preparing material that ultimately will provide for an interpretive site that helps explain the Cemetery’s important history.  In the meantime, it’s a beautiful place to visit, just as Schwagerl and his influential clients intended more than a 130 years ago.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sparta Building Update- Glazing

The exterior of the Sparta Building, in downtown Medford, is coming along nicely, with all of the windows framed in and glass starting to be installed as well.  Brown coat stucco is going up on the re-exposed masonry columns, which will cure about three weeks before the finish coat is applied. Soon the black ceramic tile will go into the bulkhead area, below the window sills, and the exterior will start looking like a finish building, rather than a construction site.  

In the meantime Andrew Tillinghast, of Neoglassic Studio, is busily cutting 5.75” x 5.75" panes of reeded glass and setting them into huge panels that will be installed as the transom band.  I have had this sort of work done before, and been pleased with the results, but have never had it done for a building that was so close to home.  In the past my Medford clients have always balked at the design, or the price, or the complication, in at least one case with unfortunate results.  I am thinking that when folks who trouble envisioning lead glass panels may "get it" when they see “prismatic” glass on the Sparta.  At least here’s hoping.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Willamette Basin Project

All through the 19th and early 20th century the Willamette River flooded, causing damage to agriculture and settled areas that increased as Oregon’s population grew.  By the mid-1930s, as so often happened during that era of belief that government, people, could actually do great things when they worked together for a common good, state leaders were able to encourage the Federal government to consider solutions to the problem.  The Federal government, as it so often did, turned to the US Army Corps of Engineers and the result, authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1936, became known as the Willamette Basin Project.

The Willamette Basin Project was a series of multi-purpose dams, at one time as many as 19, that would control the river and its tributaries as far south as Cottage Grove, to provide for flood control, irrigation and recreational opportunities.  The Corps got started building several of the dams in the late 1930s and then, after the distraction of WWII, got back to work after the massive Vanport Flood of 1948 provided extra emphasis on how dangerous Oregon’s rivers could be.  The last of the 15 dams ultimately built in the Willamette Project, the Blue River Dam, was completed in 1969.

I’ve worked on several of these dams in the past, giving me an appreciation for the scope of Corps (and Oregon) vision during this New Deal-Great Society period of infrastructure construction (even Ike’s Administration, generally opposed to Federal funding, saw merit in the Willamette Basin Project).  At the moment I am working on the Fall Creek Dam and Reservoir, located near Lowell, Oregon.  Fall Creek is an earthen embankment dam, almost a mile long at its crest (5,100 feet) that rises 180’ and impounds Fall Creek, creating a reservoir just under 7 miles long.  Fall Creek was completed, at a cost of $22 million in 1969.

Now, as is happening on several of the Willamette Basin dams, a third party has filed an application to built a small hydropower project on the downstream face of the Fall Creek Dam, generating a small amount of electricity, about 10 megawatts, with the dam’s outflow.  These so-called micro-power projects can add significantly to Oregon’s generation capacity without much environmental impact (the dams are already there) but they trigger Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, sending me out into the field with a camera and into the archive on yet another dam.