PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Scattered across Portland are buildings bearing the flowery symbol of the City of Roses.
Murals of brightly colored roses first sprouted in 1977. Developer Joseph Weston came up with the idea to have the roses painted upon buildings in an attempt to dissuade graffiti artists from tagging blank walls.
The idea worked.
“For some reason, [graffiti artists] would not graffiti the artwork,” Weston said.
Weston’s idea — born out of practicality — is now synonymous with his name and legacy. Today, Weston Rose Murals adorn prominent Portland buildings like the Tiffany Center, the Portland Bottling Company and the Ross Island Plaza but they can also be found in Beaverton, Salem and Vancouver.
Many of the murals are named after family members, friends, employees and even Weston’s school teachers.
“Usually when I do one for an employee, I don’t tell them,” Weston said. “I let them discover on their own.”
Twenty-one of the murals were painted by the late Jere Harley who passed away in 2007. Harley was a contract painter for Weston’s company, American Property Management.
“He was actually a sign painter who worked for us. But when things were slow, we had him painting roses,” Weston explained.
Those older murals were made with oil paints while the newer ones were made digitally and attached to their respective buildings.
While Weston has unveiled a new rose mural every year since 1977, he doesn’t anticipate carrying on the tradition indefinitely.
“We’re not acquiring property anymore,” Weston said. “In fact, I’m giving property away to the foundation.”
The OCF Joseph E. Weston Public Foundation invests in projects to improve Portland through grants administered by the Oregon Community Foundation.
Weston knows the foundation’s mission will outlast him — as will the many rose murals that share his name.
There is still hope for those who hope to see new roses bloom beyond 2019: Weston told KOIN 6 News he just “can’t seem to quit.”