Will the Elk Statue return to its spot in downtown Portland?

2020 Protests

Elk Statue is hidden, safe, 'everything in good shape'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In a secret place in an undisclosed location, the iconic Thompson Elk statue stands protected, away from the public, the protesters and the fires that compromised the fountain base of the statue.

The 9-foot bronze elk was removed July 2 by the Regional Arts and Culture Council to protect it from further damage. The council moved the statue when it was determined the base was unstable and a potential safety issue.

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

“It was graffitied multiple times,” said Keith Lachowicz of the Regional Arts and Culture Council. “But the bronze is a really robust surface and we were able to remove the graffiti pretty steadily.”

The Thompson Elk statue — so named because former Portland Mayor David Thompson gifted it in 1900 — was a landmark and water source located between Chapman and Lownsdale squares, across from government buildings. That location made the Elk Statue a protest gathering point for decades.

It’s the second-oldest piece of public art in the city, after Skidmore Fountain in Old Town. Two other statues — the George Washington statue on 57th and Sandy and “The Promised Land” pioneer statue in Chapman Square — have been removed and stored in secret locations.

Over 120 years, the Elk Statue “has survived everything in good shape and should be able to be cleaned up just fine,” Lachowicz said.

A substitute elk by a local artist, surrounded by messages calling for racial justice, now stands where the Thompson Elk once was.

But will it return?

“That’s a question I don’t have an answer to,” he told KOIN 6 News. “It is being discussed.”

In the meantime, the city said an art conservator will give the bronze elk the once-over to make sure it’s restored to its former self.

But it could be a long time before Portlanders see it again.

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