Elk Statue removed after fires severely damage base

2020 Protests

The statue was donated to Portland in 1900

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Over the past month of near-nightly protests in Portland, the Elk Fountain statue has been the scene of a number of clashes. Over the past 2 nights, protesters set fires in and around the statue.

Thursday, officials removed the familiar statue from its long-time perch in downtown in the middle of Main Street between Chapman and Lownsdale Squares due to concern it could topple over from the damage.

KOIN 6 News watched the 9-foot tall statue leave the area on a flat-bed truck shortly after noon Thursday.

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The statue, also known as the David P. Thompson Fountain, itself was not burned in an early Thursday fire, nor was the fountain — but an area right next to it is now filled with ashes. The statue is also covered in graffiti.

Officials said the fire so severely damaged the stone surrounding the basin around and beneath the elk statue that it needed to be removed for safety reasons. There’s no timeline on when it will be reinstalled.

“There is concern the elk statue could topple over and injure someone,” police said in a statement.

Authorities said there was also substantial damage done to the bathrooms at Lownsdale Square and Chapman Park.

Portland resident Heidi Dohse said the landscape will look completely different without the statue.

“It has been such an iconic piece of my daily events for years and seeing it come down is kind of sad,” Dohse said. “It was sort of the focal point of walking through that park area and to have that gone is — it’s just going to leave a really big empty spot.”

The sculpture was donated to the city in 1900. It has been designated a Portland historic landmark. The statue, the second major piece in Portland after the Skidmore Fountain in Old Town, was a gift from former Portland Mayor David P. Thompson in 1900.

The bronze statue has survived 120 years of wear and tear. In 1994, it received major renovations and recently there was an overhaul of the bronze surface.

There are about 170 outdoor public sculptures in Multnomah County, all of them cared for by the Regional Arts and Culture Council. The council published the following statement Thursday on Instagram:

“Given the extensive damage to the granite base last night, we had to remove this 3,000-pound Elk sculpture from downtown Portland today. It’s being stored for the time being. The Elk was a gift to the City of Portland by former mayor, David P. Thompson. As founder and director of the Oregon Humane Society, Thompson’s vision for the sculpture was to provide an accessible watering place for “bird, beast, and human.” He commissioned artist Roland Perry to create the sculpture and placed it in a site that was a former feeding ground for elk that wandered down from the west hills of the city. The work is the second oldest sculpture located in greater Portland. It was created in the horse and buggy era of Portland and would have originally been used as a place to rest and water horses.”

The Elk Statue in downtown Portland was removed after protesters set fire to the base, severely damaging it, July 2, 2020 (KOIN)

This developing story and KOIN 6 News will continue to follow it.

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