PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — The Lovejoy Columns are a significant Portland historical monument — now a group of conservationists in the city are working to save two of its columns from being destroyed.
“It’s a piece of blue collar, post-war Portland that people deserve to know about,” Friends of the Lovejoy Columns member James Harrison told KOIN 6 News.
The Lovejoy Columns were painted by Greek immigrant and rail yard worker Tom Stefopoulos between 1948 and 1952. In 1999, condo developments in what is now the Pearl District displaced the Lovejoy ramp and columns to the Broadway Bridge.
“So before the Pearl District was here, it was an important part of the history of this neighborhood,” Harrison said.
The columns were featured as a backdrop in Gus Van Sant’s film, “Drugstore Cowboy.” The city, which called them a cultural resource, saved 10 columns with 12 paintings.
Friends of the Lovejoy Columns are fighting to save two more columns with five more paintings that are currently on private property. They need a place to put the columns to keep them from being destroyed.
KOIN 6 News spoke with Mayor Charlie Hales, who pushed for preserving two of the columns in 1999 when he was a city commissioner.
“The city can certainly help with that, just like we did the first time around,” Mayor Hales said. “If there’s a developer or property owner who would like to make that kind of a public art element, that’s how we succeeded before, maybe we can do it again.”
Harrison told KOIN 6 News the conservationist group would like to display the columns at the Centennial Mills property in Northwest Portland.
“I would say that if the city and the developers see that this is something that people want, and that makes good sense, I’m sure they would love to talk to us about how to make it happen,” Harrison said.
Through conservation techniques, Harrison said the columns can be cleaned and the paintings restored to look like they did years ago.