The Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation was created in 2002 to recognize the community, geography and history that arose from the unique and magnificent Willamette Falls. The foundation’s mission is “Preserving and sharing the stories of human enterprise and the power of the water at the great falls of the Willamette River”.
The Grindstones project will preserve and share the story of the first pulp making technique used at the West Linn paper mill which has operated at the same site using the power of the Willamette Falls since 1895. The project will inform the public about the historic use of grindstones at the mill. Original grindstones donated by the West Linn paper mill will be used in a sculpture that illustrates the story of the paper industry and the role the mill industry played in building the communities that grew after Oregon Trail pioneers settled in this area. The sculpture is a life-size depiction of a mill worker toiling over the grindstones.
Since the 1830s, the Willamette Falls has been home to flour, textile, and paper manufacturing and hydroelectric power production. Paper manufacturing at mill sites that once flanked both sides of the Willamette River has provided employment for generations in the adjoining communities. The project refreshes the story of the origins of paper manufacturing by displaying grinding stones that were first used to turn wood into pulp. The sculpture is intended to be a symbol of the industry and commerce that was central to the surrounding communities. It will be permanently located at an access point to the new West Linn River Greenway Trail in Willamette Park with fantastic access for all members of the public – residents, visitors, students of all ages.
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The Grindstones project was first conceived in 2007 when it became the City of West Linn’s first Percent for Art award. Since then the artist was selected and the sculpture designed under the guidance of the Clackamas County Arts Alliance. Process on the project slowed while the design and construction schedule for the Willamette River Greenway trail (in West Linn’s Willamette Park), along which the art will be located, was refined. The trail work will start in 2015.
The Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation has made completing the Grindstones project their top priority in their adopted 2015 goals. Fund raising efforts have been ramped up and the artist has committed to this schedule.
As reflected in their mission, the Foundation intends to make the Grindstones story part of ongoing information sharing to preserve this element of the overall history of the Willamette Falls.
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Dedication Speech by Sandy Carter, WFHF Founder, July 2016
Grindstone Project Built and Dedicated in July 2016
Take it from the Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation, sometimes great ideas take a while to pan out.
In September 2006, the “grindstones project” first appeared as New Business in minutes of the Foundation, which is a small West Linn nonprofit organization that has been focused since its inception in 2002 on this city’s special industrial and transportation roots. Sometime during the summer of 2006, in a meeting with the West Linn Paper Co. manager Brian Conen, we dreamed aloud about someday having sculpture in West Linn using old mill grind stones and Brian said, “Okay—you can come and get a few.” And that was the beginning.
By May 2007 we’d approached the WL Arts Commission and volunteers from the Foundation and the Arts group worked with City staff to select and move six old grindstones onto city property at Willamette Park, in hopes of turning them into an historic public art project.
By July 2008, we’d gotten some mentoring in how to construct and conduct a public art process. So we selected our review committee, got a grant for stipends for three finalists in the art competition, and took the three finalists on tours generously hosted by the mill, so the artists could appreciate the history and context of the stones they’d be using.
That fall, John Davis’s brilliant design for the art was selected, at a budget of $45,000. Then the bottom fell out of the American economy and the project, unfortunately, went on the shelf, with little hope of funding for the foreseeable future.
Today, in July 2016, the dream has come true. Thanks to a healthier economy and the commitment and persistence of John Davis, Ken Worcester and the Parks Department, and the Foundation and its many supporters, we’re here today to dedicate “Apparatus for Manufacturing Memories of a Pulp Mill”.
The Foundation conducted a vigorous fundraising campaign over the past year, and although we still need a few more donations to complete the budget for the donor plaques and interpretive signage, the art is complete and paid for and we’re nearing the finish line.
Of course none of this would have been possible without the Mill’s cooperation, and especially the friendship of Ian Dunlap, who tragically suffered a fatal heart attack on the morning of the dedication.
We love seeing folks from Mill families here today, honoring their families’ contributions to building this community. Thank you all very much for helping us celebrate today.