Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Power and Wealth at Bush Park and Deepwood: A Cultural Landscape Plan at the HLC

The Historic Landmarks Commission convenes on Thursday the 16th and they've got an unusually meaty agenda.

The most interesting item on it is the outline and work plan for a Cultural Landscape Management Plan for Bush Park and Deepwood. Beyond the practical aims of a management plan for the two parks and associated houses, it will be a chance at a deep dive on urban ecology, geography, and history. Beyond setting policy, it could be fascinating! The area is such a layered mash-up. Indeed, collage might be one of the best ways to look at it.

Oaks and Camas in Bush Park, a Kalapuya legacy,
 the second week of April 2014
There are two major Oak groves, one of them with Camas, and these have direct and indirect links to First Peoples and their own technology of pyroculture. These were never "natural" and already depended on human intervention.

Not far away, the Lord & Schryver formal garden at Deepwood
via Oregon Encyclopedia &
Univesrity of Oregon, 2010_VRC_06197
Less than a block away, just across a creek bed, is a European formal garden, with its roots in early modern fortifications.

That juxtaposition is a little amazing, really.

The old carriage way should be revived!
(Salem Library Historic Photos, note added, and discussion here)
Then there are the two main Victorian-era houses, Bush House and Deepwood, and ancillary structures like the two greenhouses, barn, and carriage house. Multiple museum groups use these also.

And modern park facilities, including the stadium and ballpark for Willamette University, and the soap box derby track.

There's just so much going on.

The start of the plan for Bush Park & Deepwood
So the plan has lots to consider and several stages.

One thing I wonder about is whether we still see "coordination" with tribal members into too much of a secondary position. The plan calls for "conduct[ing] field visits and interviews," but already they are consultants and advisors on the edge, setting the stage, but not at the center. That reproduces the way we see them in history setting the stage for settlers - and then disappearing. We saw this a little bit in the Jason Lee dig, that tribal participants seemed to disappear in the second and third videos, and the City may yet be figuring out how to have a real partnership and relationship.

The questions are hard. How do we adequately express that we later citizens are in a very fundamental way interlopers and confiscators? There's an awkward inequality there. So that's a tension in the work plan that may take a few projects and iterations to figure out. Maybe it never does get figured out since it is based on a fundamental injustice and asymmetry.

More generally, even beyond the mechanism of displacement, in the settlement era any "cultural landscape" at the parks was also an expression of power, and the project should face that. These were estates for rich people.

Bush House was built towards the end of the depression we call the Panic of 1873.

Deepwood was built at the start of the depression we call the Panic of 1893.

Lord & Schryver started their firm in 1929, and had to hustle for commissions right as the Great Depression started.

That's three big moments for Bush Park and Deepwood that are instances of conspicuous consumption and status symbol during economic depressions. So even after the original displacement of First People, the "cultural landscape" of Bush Park and Deepwood is inescapably about displays of power and wealth.

Hopefully the final Cultural Landscape Management Plan will recognize and discuss these tensions directly and honestly.

Other Items

In addition to a routine review, a change in a previously approved proposal to "remove the non-historic awnings and modify the storefront on the exterior of the Reed Opera House," the Commission will also look at the full draft of the Historic Preservation Plan for 2020-2030,  and at a set of proposed code amendments for Historic Preservation and Review.

The cover of the new Historic Preservation Plan
features Grant Neighborhood
Here is a Staff Presentation on all three.

And a previous note here on incumbency privilege in the Historic Preservation Plan.

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