No one can miss Paul Bunyan when they go through Kenton. But did you know that the neighborhood recently pulled together to give him a much-needed restoration? Here’s how Paul returned to his former glory.
The Paul Bunyan statue was commissioned in 1959. He was a centerpiece for the Oregon Centennial Exposition and International Trade Fair that summer. The statue was only supposed to be around for six months, just long enough to welcome people to the fair.
However, state officials approached the fair organizers about leaving Paul up as a tourist information booth, which is exactly what happened until I-5 was constructed in the early 1960s. Tourist traffic through Kenton disappeared, and the booth was closed.
Wear and Tear
Given that the statue was never intended to stay up so long, you can imagine that it began to show some significant wear and tear. By the mid1980s, the deterioration was so bad that people were beginning to talk about taking the statue down. Luckily, several volunteer groups banded together for a complete restoration at the end of the 1980s. Restoration was done again in 1999.
In 2009 the Paul Bunyan statue was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, giving him a little more status than he’d had in the past! Paul also got a local grant to have repainting done. Unfortunately, that painting was done incorrectly, causing some significant problems over the next few years.
In 2017, it became clear that something was going to have to be done about Paul’s condition.
Angela Moos, treasurer of the Kenton Neighborhood Association, said “Paul Bunyan is a symbol of the resourcefulness of the neighborhood and how we are able to build community around local causes. We have a sense of ownership or stewardship, so it’s hard for us to drive by and see the paint peeling off his shoes.”
Paul’s steel framework was in great shape, and even the cement plaster of his “skin” needed only minor repairs. But the paint was in very bad shape.
The community worked together to advertise about the restoration and raise the money to fix Paul.
The new-and-improved Paul was unveiled just a couple of weeks ago at the Tall Paul Fest. And he’s sure looking good—go check him out if you haven’t already!