Paul Bunyan gets a beer-powered facelift for his 58th birthday in Portland, Oregon

The Paul Bunyan Statue is a 31-foot-tall (9.4 m) concrete and metal sculpture of mythical logger Paul Bunyan in the Kenton neighborhood of Portland, Oregon.

1959 photo via City of Portland Archives.

It was built in 1959 to commemorate the centennial of Oregon’s statehood during the Centennial Exposition and International Trade Fair, which was held in the Kenton area.

The statue was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in January of 2009, and was the Highlighted Property of the Week when the National Park Service released its weekly list on February 6, 2009.

But today, paint has chipped from his shirt, previous stucco repairs are falling apart, and mildew has formed around his boots. But he still smiles through the deterioration that has been accelerated by the wet climate. “Paul Bunyan is a symbol of the resourcefulness of the neighborhood and how we are able to build community around local causes,” said Angela Moos, treasurer of the Kenton Neighborhood Association. “We have a sense of ownership or stewardship of the statue, so it’s hard for us to drive by and see the paint peeling off his shoes.

Now, scaffolding has gone up and the statue will undergo a complete renovation. The restored statue will be unveiled on September 9, 2017 at the Tall Paul Fest. “This truly was a grass-roots effort through the community and the Kenton Neighborhood Association,” Moos said. “It’s been more than we imagined, so it’s a heartfelt thank you to everyone in the community.”

Tall Paul Lager, brewed by Widmer Brothers.
Photo credit: Oregon Craft Beer.

The Kenton Neighborhood Association has raised almost $55,000, which is $25,000 short of the $80,000 goal, But that’s enough to launch the renovation.

To help, Widmer Brothers Brewing has created a special beer called Tall Paul Lager. It was sold locally, with $1 from each pint going towards the restoration project.

Tall Paul Lager will be brewed again to celebrate completion of the refurbishment.

2002 photo of Paul being moved via Tri-Met Archives.

The sculpture was originally prominently placed at the intersection of North Interstate Avenue (then U.S. Route 99) and North Argyle Street, and now stands at the corner of North Interstate and North Denver.

The iconic statue was the vision and project of Nelson family, which ran nearby Kenton Machine Works. The father, Victor A., had the concept, his daughter-in-law, Bette, browsed children’s books for inspiration images, and his son, Victor R., engineered him.

Members of the cement masons and painters unions provided the labor. All three family members have since passed away, but grandson Victor Anders Nelson remembers growing up with Paul looking over the family business.

The businessmen planned to take Paul down after the 100-day-long centennial expo, but state officials approached them about leaving him up as a tourist information booth. He served as such until Interstate 5 was constructed in the early 1960s, and the tourist traffic through Kenton dried up. The information booth closed, but Paul remained.

Photo credit: Cacophony via Wikipedia.

See July 23, 2017 KGW-TV article by Jared Cowley.

See December 2016 article by Samantha Swindler in The Oregonian.

See the Paint Paul fundraising campaign website.


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