Tacoma Totem Pole to Stay Vertical

The new plan for the Tacoma Totem Pole, which stands in Fireman's Park, is for it to get a new bracing structure - something a little more minimalist than the current set up.

On Wednesday the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a plan to shore up the crumbling totem pole with a 50 foot steel pole, painted black, attached at two spots roughly one-third and two-thirds of the way up the 80 foot historic pole with bolts and steel plates.

Bracing the pole will preserve it for now - possibly for another decade or two - but won't solve the underlying problems of rot and insects, which will continue to pose a threat to the # year-old pole.

Work on the project, with a price tag in the neighborhood of $40,000, could begin by the end of the year.

Not everyone is happy with the bracing solution, including LPC commissioner Dan Rahe who shared some of his thoughts on the decision

The totem pole may or may not be a significant artifact. I will not contemplate that. But it is a public good, an object of the arts. Since the public demonstrated interest in its preservation, it behooves us to treat it as such, not merely as a vertical object that must remain vertical.

So, which is it? Artistic/cultural/historical artifact or "vertical object that must remain vertical?"

Read more from the TNT and previously from Exit133.

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Erik B.

Great to see Tacoma’s historic totem pole save.

Thanks to the Tacoma Art Commission and the Landmarks Preservation Commission for not letting it be turned into mulch or going the way of the Luzon.

Sure, a $750,000 restoration effort may have made the pole look better in the end.  However, that was not going to happen.

One challenge with restoring historical buildings is that the requirements for seismic upgrades, parking requirements, ADA compliance and other historical requirements can make it impossible to restore them.

In 20 years, we will have to come up with another solution to extend the pole’s life further.  Perhaps a fund cane be created in the interim to fund a complete restoration then.

September 26, 2013 at 11:26 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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200,000 people live in Tacoma. How many residents have actually stood in front of that totem pole? Nobody knows.
Should people stand in front of it? And for how long?

The significance of the object is the question. If there are objects designated as public goods, then there must be objects designated as public bads. The totem pole is a public good? Compared to what? Its significance is a matter of degree.

What is the method used to measure the totem poles’ degree of significance? Majority rule? Majority rule is an expediency used to reach a decision for action, because of the limitations of time.

I’m looking forward to the day when I will actually stand in front of Tacoma’s new 50-foot steel pole.

September 26, 2013 at 8:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Fred davie

...because totem poles can’t use Viagra.

September 27, 2013 at 4:22 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Anne Fitzgerald

Replace it with a brand new totem pole!  Create work for a Native American artist, or for a team of Native American artists, to create a new pole!  All things are born, live and die.  It is time.

September 27, 2013 at 9:47 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I have to reiterate a new totem to be constructed.  Take grandma off of life support, its unnatural and disrespectful since we’ve abused it up to this point.  Restoration efforts could have prolonged the life of the pole a couple decades ago but hindsight…

Albeit, I still think the totem pole to be culturally appropriating and bastardized where no Indian Tribe would recognize it to be real.  It is the Native American equivalent of “black face.”  We mislead visitors of its authenticity and continue the cycle of ignorance.  All the while spending tens of thousands of dollars to keep our version of the Confederate Flag standing tall because its “our” history.  We have the perfect opportunity to make things right, but won’t.

September 27, 2013 at 10:23 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Published Author RR AndersonRegistered

festivus for the restivus!

September 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I agree with PA RR Anderson, a large festivus pole as pictured in the example would be more interesting than a termite-y old rotting faux art pole.

September 28, 2013 at 9:07 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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