Thursday, June 27, 2019

Rail History and Art in Salem and Eugene

The Downtown Advisory Board is meeting today - right now, in fact - but there wasn't a meeting packet to flesh out the agenda items. They are talking about congestion on Front Street and about the mid-block parklets pilot. There will be more to say later.

Buried a little in the minutes from May also is a note about "Handout: Capital Cornerstones – Outdoor History Panels." Unfortunately the handout itself is not bundled into the meeting packet. But it sounds like the utility wrap project that went in the SCAN SESNA neighborhood is being extended to the downtown area. That could be very nice!

So here's a couple of related notes not themselves on the DAB agenda. If you haven't been to the Train Depot lately, you might not have seen the new historical signage at it and the Baggage Depot next door.

Newish historical interpretive signage at the Train Depot
On one of them was a photo I hadn't seen before. Or, I had, but the scan from the photo in the Library's Historic Photo collection is terrible. Unfortunately the caption at the Depot is also a little thin. Without any compass direction, it's hard to orient yourself. If the photo dates from the 1870s, it must be from Waller Hall, though. Was there any other structure tall enough and early enough to give that view? The Capitol is another candidate, but it would have been a little more directly north of the Depot.

A rare image of the first Depot of 1870
Down in Eugene it was interesting to see the brand new mural (several more images in the painter's FB note) on the circa 1910 "trolley stairs" on Willamette Street at College Hill.

Willamette Street in downtown Eugene
The mural's central image is a reproduction of a vintage photo of Willamette Street in downtown Eugene. Before Eugene urban renewaled themselves and demolished many of the old commercial blocks, Eugene had a much more interesting downtown. (Here's what looks like a series on a similar view, the 700, 800, and 900 blocks of Willamette Street.)

Front page of the RG June 2nd, during its painting
Side images offer a tribute to an important African-American streetcar driver and show the streetcar route.

Willamette St Streetcar route on a stairwall
The art here is representational, and even maybe a little like a graphic novel. Lots of drawing and cross-hatch and outline, and not a whole lot of shading. It is easy to read and grasp from a distance. Though you can zoom in on detail and read elements of the symbolism, it requires no heavy interpretive work to parse and enjoy.

Public art should not be hermetic.

But here in Salem art like "Waldo Stewards" is the exception; recent installations like "The Cube," "Receptacle," "Mirror Maze," and now the piece at the Police Station are all difficult or abstract and seemingly require supplemental explanatory material.

Why not a general policy to make public art more accessible?

via Facebook
Finally, and back to Salem, did you know there were Peregrine Falcons downtown?! A year ago someone posted a note about seeing them on the Marion Street Bridge, one time this spring walking across the Center Street Bridge I saw one in a tree above, and now folks are seeing fledglings on the Union Street RR Bridge! That's pretty great.

Postscript, July 15th

On a stroll over the weekend, one of four utility vaults I saw had a wrap downtown. Here's the one at Liberty and Court.

"Public Amusement in Salem"


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Updated with image of downtown wrap and inserted link to SESNA project.)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Salem Reporter has a piece, "Utility box panels give passersby a chance meeting with local history" on the downtown wraps.