Oregon's Pioneer Monuments
Tour pioneer monuments throughout the state of Oregon.
University of Oregon art professor Avard Fairbanks sculpted this covered wagon scene in 1924. This work was inspired by Ezra Meeker’s journey retracing the Oregon Trail in 1906. Fairbanks’ depiction was influenced by popular culture as much as historical reality. The Seaside medallion is installed in the historic Broadway Bridge, near a Fairbanks medallion depicting the Lewis and Clark Salt Works.
Monument to white pioneer mothers erected in Esther Short Park in 1928. After World War II, the park fell into disuse and the statue was largely forgotten. Urban renewal brought extensive renovations to the park, and this statue was moved to a more visible location.
Originally displayed at the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition. It depicts indigenous leader Multnomah and a young brave watching the arrival of white men up the Columbia River into the Willamette Valley.
Feminist leaders gathered in Portland in 1905 to dedicate a statue of Sacajawea in honor of the Native American guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition and to commemorate “the pioneer mother of Old Oregon.” The white female suffrage leaders who helped to erect this statue of the famed indigenous woman considered Alice Cooper’s statue to be a fitting memorial to the thousands of white women who had brought Anglo-American civilization to the Oregon frontier.
Grand bank designed by Albert E. Doyle and constructed in 1917 and expanded in 1925. Constructed of reinforced concrete and clad in terra cotta, it is the first edifice built in Portland with a steel frame. The bronze lobby doors were sculpted by Avard Fairbanks.
Donated to the city of Portland to mark the 150th anniversary of the Oregon Trail, this pioneer statue has engendered spirited debate in recent years as residents question whether its title implies that the acquisition of Native land was sanctioned by divine providence. Similar statues that laud the pioneering spirit of people who moved into and acquired land once controlled by Native tribes have led to similar controversy and debate in recent years, with opponents pointing to the way that the monuments celebrated white settlers who took land that had once been occupied by Native peoples. While many might believe that this interpretation of Western history is recent, the 1992 dedication of this monument was opposed. With some residents questioning the aesthetic value of the monument and others protesting against its uncontextualized depiction of a complicated and often violent and tragic history, civic leaders decided against placing the monument in the North Park blocks. The statue was placed in temporary locations for about two years before finally being installed in Chapman Square.
These two adjacent public parks were originally divided by gender — Chapman Square was intended for women and children and Lownsdale Square was for men — and were popular with public orators who drew crowds they spoke their piece. Today, these historic squares, originally acquired by the city in 1869, serve as quiet urban oases and feature prominent public art and lots of shade.
Also known as "Joy" or "Pioneer Woman," this statue and drinking fountain was sculpted by Frederic Littman in 1956. It is an adaptation of early-20th-century public fountains and Portland's iconic "Benson Bubblers."
Oregon's 1876 state capitol building burned down in 1935 and was replaced with a new building in 1938 in the PWA Moderne style.
Sculpted from zinc by Allen G. Newman. It was modeled after an early white settler's hat, rifle and pouch provided by the Breyman family of Salem, Oregon. Statue was toppled by a windstorm in 1917 and never replaced. Later castings of the statue were erected in locations across the United States.
Monument honoring mid-19th-century Christian ministers who served multiple congregations in communities spread over significant distances on the Oregon frontier. Sculpted by A. Phimister Proctor, it depicts itinerant minister Robert Booth.
Janitor Carroll Moore left most of his life savings to pay for a pioneer monument for the city of Salem. Plans to purchase a nude "Venus Victorious" statue by famous French sculptor Pierre-Auguste Renoir sparked controversy. The committee instead selected Avard Fairbanks' depiction of a pioneer family. The strapping young son leads the way into the future.
One of the few monuments erected to a generic pioneer man in the early 20th century, this statue of a white frontiersman dressed in buckskin was dedicated on the University of Oregon campus in 1919. A companion pioneer woman was erected a decade later in the women's quad. A century later, the statue would become broiled in debate for its glorification of white settlement. Protestors removed both statues in June 2020; the statues were placed in storage.
This little-known companion to the 1919 Pioneer statue honored Oregon’s female settlers. In the 1920s and 1930s, cities throughout the western United States put up statues honoring white “pioneer mothers.” Most depicted young women striding purposely westward. In contrast, this statue depicts an elderly female settler resting from her efforts to bring Euro-American culture to the frontier. In recent years, the University of Oregon community has debated the meaning and future of both its pioneer statues. In June 2020, protesters tore down both pioneer monuments on the University of Oregon campus.
Erroneously known as "Iron Mike," the original statue was actually cast in zinc. "Pioneer Mike" is a beloved copy of Allen G. Newman's 1903 Pioneer for Salem, Oregon. It was repeatedly damaged by vandals before finally being removed in 2014. It was replaced with a bronze recasting two years later.
University of Oregon art professor Avard Fairbanks sculpted this covered wagon scene in 1924. This work was inspired by Ezra Meeker’s journey retracing the Oregon Trail in 1906. Fairbanks’ depiction was influenced by popular culture as much as historical reality.