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This is the Blog of Fenton J. Beaver: Blogger, Historian and Oregon Rodent Laureate, Bringing you tid-bits of Beaver state history on an ocassional basis.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Why...

I can never really completely finishing cleaning my room. I can get close (though I usually don’t) but without fail I always come across some personal artifact that distracts me from the task at hand. Usually it’s a yearbook. I organize my space so rarely that when I find and open my High School scrapbook I always have new insights into the way I was, the things I did, the crushes I had, my entire life back then.

This last time I attempted to sort through my things it wasn’t my yearbook that captured my attention, which in the living room collecting dust with stacks of other books; it was a black and white picture of a burning domed building. It’s all black excepted for the fire, white in the grayscale, glowing through the buildings interior and bursting outward into a huge pale ring. The lack of color does nothing to diminish the power of the flames. The starkness in fact only intensifies it.

The photo is on a postcard. The caption on the reverse reads:

The 42-year-old Oregon State Capitol in Salem was destroyed by fire on 25 April 1935. The copper dome – the building’s most striking feature – crashed to the ground soon after the fire’s onset. Losses included oil portraits of John McLoughlin and Jason Lee, as well as many other artifacts.

I’ve always been jealous of other states and their old, grand Statehouses. Iowa and New Hampshire’s ornate capitols are seemingly filled to the brim with state knickknacks and paintings; California’s is so large and governmental looking. Even Washington’s feels historic and stately. Our capitol is relatively small and new (it’s the fourth youngest) and its austere, modern architecture verify it’s creation in the height of the depression era.

I don’t hate our new capitol building; in fact I appreciate how unique it is. Where others are gaudy and flamboyant; it is streamlined and utilitarian. Where others are use scale to identify their purpose, it relies on the subtle strength of its solid looking build. And, though I dislike that, unlike our previous statehouses, it is built of imported materials (Vermont marble mostly) and not good old Oregon hardwood (we learned our lesson) our capitol is a good symbol of our state and its government. It is not audacious or pompous but it works. As much as many of us like to criticize our state officials, historically they’ve been among the better statesmen in the country. Oregon is the state that works.

What I’m jealous of isn’t the building, but the history inside. After reading the back of that postcard I began to mourn the loss of those “historical artifacts.” What were they? In my head I imagine oil paintings of Mt. Hood and documents, and furniture and all manner of Oregonian relics, all manner of connections to what Oregon was and where it was headed. People at the scene tried to save what they could. Several people ran into the building to remove what they whatever they could grab, one of them, Mark O. Hatfield, went on to become one of those “better statesmen” mentioned above. Despite the future Governor/Senator's best efforts, most everything was lost.

Oregon lost a little of its memory.

That’s why I am here, to reclaim some of it, to help fortify the rest. I am here to compile what I can and to try and make sense of where this state, has been and where it is going. I’m here to be one more historical record because one more is one better than we already had and I’m here because I love Oregon and I want to know it as best I can.

So, between the doldrums of work and sleep and… cleaning my room. I hope to learn and share what I find with anyone who is interested. My focus with this blog is not any particular time in Oregon history, nor person or event. I want this to be all of Oregon’s past and even some of Oregon’s present.

Hopefull, I'll catch a few readers on the way.

2 Comments:

Blogger Joshua said...

When I first saw "thebeaver.blogspot.com" I hoped for pornography.

Some to think of it, this site is pornography. Porno for history dorks. I, for one, am totally aroused.

Keep the beavering up.

2:55 AM  
Blogger Fenton the Beaver said...

You will go down in history as the first person ever to comment in my blog.

In fifty years I will write a post about you.

3:24 AM  

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