Portland fountain tour: Thompson’s Elk Fountain

Some men duke it out in a gunfight, others by being more successful  than their compatriots, but for one man, it meant he wanted his own fountain and, well, perhaps he was miffed because in his daily job as mayor of Portland (1879 until 1882), he had to look at the Skidmore fountain every day.  So David P. Thompson commissioned the bronze Elk Statue which he donated to the city in 1900.

The fountain sits in the middle of Main Street between 3rd and 4th and is surrounded by two Park blocks (Chapman and Lownsdale squares) and, just like the Skidmore fountain, it contains stone basins that allow horses and dogs to drink from it. Now, think about that! The statue is in the middle of the road, so if a horse decides to take a drink you have an instant horse jam!  While he contracted a noted artist, Roland Hinton Perry to design his Elk Statue, whose work adorns the Library of Congress and the dome of the Pennsylvania state capitol, the Exalted Order of Elks refused to dedicate it because they considered the statue “a monstrosity of art.”

In 1974, Thompson’s elk and the two Plaza Blocks were designated as Historic Landmarks after attempts were made to move it to a different location. When the statue was first installed, there were no one way streets in Portland, but now the direction of flow always sees the rear of the statue which is a shame.

There is also plenty to see in the adjacent park blocks, named Chapman Square and Lownsdale Square including several other statues, memorials, drinking fountains and just across Madison Street is the Terry Shrunk Federal Plaza which includes another fountain and statues. Descriptions of these will appear in future blogs.

To learn more about Portland’s wonderful fountains click here

Brought to you by Brian Bailey

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4 thoughts on “Portland fountain tour: Thompson’s Elk Fountain

  • April 24, 2022 at 2:09 PM

    Brian, I’m an editor of a forthcoming academic book, “Emancipatory Change in US Higher Education.” Additionally, I wrote a chapter on representation and talk at length about the Thompson Elk and its transformation from a celebration of the majestic animal that once roamed the land on which Portland is situated to a gathering place for protest during the George Floyd riots. I’m looking for a ‘before’ image and would like to know if you would like to contribute. Palgrave Macmillan will not pay for images (figures, as they’re called) BUT you could get a credit in an internationally-distributed academic book. I began my professional career as a journalist at The Oregonian, and later Oregon Journal. I also helped distribute Willamette Week when it came to town and later was responsible for distributing Fresh Weekly, the paper’s entertainment insert. Please let me know at your earliest convenience if you would be interested in your work being featured in our book. I have rights free images from the Oregon Historical Society but thought if someone wanted the credit, I’d rather go that way. Let me know your thoughts. 310.560.8104. cheers, kr

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