one of the more interesting things in the Plaza Blocks is the statue and fountain that stand smack in the middle of Main Street. it was donated by David P. Thompson, who, among other notable positions, served as Mayor of Portland from 1879-82. he also served in the Oregon State Senate, in the First Oregon Cavalry during the Civil War, and as U.S. Minister to the Ottoman empire (for a year at the end of the 19th century. back in Oregon, he also served as regent of the University of Oregon, president of the Oregon Humane Society and first president of the Portland Public Library.
the Elk was commissioned of Roland Hinton Perry, who completed many notable works around the turn of the twentieth century. born in New York, Perry studied sculpture at several Parisian institutions in the 1890s. upon returning to the United States, his commissions included a series of bas-reliefs for the Library of Congress, a potential design for the statue atop the Pennsylvania Capitol building, a statue of Benjamin Rush in Washington and General George Greene at Gettysburg, and a pair of lions on the Connecticut Avenue Bridge in D.C.
without any grand plans for our time in Portland, beyond seeing friends and family and a drive down to Bend, we found ourselves out wandering around downtown, enjoying the spectacular fall weather, shuffling our feet through crisp and freshly fallen leaves. one of the first places we walked through was a pair of plazas flanking the Thomson Elk statue, which stands smack in the middle of Southwest Main Street. the plazas are named for Daniel Lownsdale and William Chapman and host towering trees, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a city of substantial size in recent memory.
Lownsdale arrived in Oregon from Kentucky before 1845 and became a member of the provisional legislature in 1846. he established the city’s first tannery on its northwest side and purchased part of what became downtown Portland from one of the city’s founders (Francis Pettygrove) in 1848. he was influential in helping determine the current layout of Portland — with small blocks of 200 feet by 64 feet with contiguous park blocks such as the one that now bears his name.
Lownsdale Plaza plaza is home to a monument to the Spanish-American War and two howitzers found at Fort Sumter donated by author Henry Dosch. Dosch claimed the howitzers had been used by both sides during the Civil War.
the adjoining park is named in honor of William Chapman, another early settler of Portland with a long political career. he settled in Portland in the late 1840s after traveling from Iowa, where he’d served as a Congressional Delegate for the Iowa Territory, by way of the Oregon Trail. he moved around the region, with a successful stint in California during the 1848 gold rush. he served in the first Territorial Legislature and, when the session ended, convinced Thomas Dyer to move from San Francisco to Portland to establish a newspaper. The Oregonian is the oldest continuously publishing newspaper on the west coast, predating the founding of Portland. he purchased land from Lownsdale and built a home on the site of what is now the Multnoma County Courthouse, where he practiced law for many years even as he moved around the state – to raise cattle in Southern Oregon, serve as lieutenant colonel of the militia during the Rogue River War of 1855-56, and serve as surveyor general from 1857-61 (when he resigned due to opposition of Lincoln’s election). in his later years, while continuing to practice law, he fought to get Portland connected to the Union Pacific transcontinental railroad to ensure the city would continue to grow and remain connected to the rest of the coast and country. (his proposed line was never built.) in 1870, he sold the land now occupied by the plazas that bear his and Lownsdale’s names to the city of Portland.
it’s really too bad that the video we tried to take as we walked into the Praza do Obradoiro didn’t record properly. it’s one of those sounds that I’ll remember to my last days, though really by the time we arrived in Santiago I was more tired than any other particular emotion. it was the sound of the gaita that brought the reality of the final moments into focus. I’m sure that’s why buskers take turns performing there, letting the sighing sound of the gaita carry you over the threshold to the end of the five hundred mile challenge you set for yourself — and just achieved!
at least another visitor was nice enough to take over the camera and capture this moment for us.
as I mentioned in my previous post, a clock tower tops the ayutameiento (or city hall, basically) in Plaza Mayor in Astorga and features two traditionally-dressed Maragatos. their likeness can be seen all over town — from the clock tower to a mosaic below the display window of jewelry store to boxes of the local pastry known as Mantecadas. while they the pastry, similar to pound cake, can be found throughout Spain the Mantecadas de Astorga are unique in the type of ingredients, which consist of eggs, flour, sugar, and cow fat. that last item is what sets them apart — so much so that they’ve received official designation and protection for their geographic uniqueness from the European Union.
I’ve conflated Mantecadas and Maragatos in my head but the are, in fact, remarkably different — one is a tasty pastry that uses cow fat and enjoys governmental protection, the other is a group of people that have long populated the region around Astorga. the origins of the Maragatos are hazy because they come from the mountains to the west of the city their ancestry is disputed. in the mid-19th century a British observer speculated they might be descended from Goths who sided with Muslims during the period of Moorish control of the region. other theories contend that: they descended from a king with the name of Maragato; the name stems from a Roman word meaning “merchant” because they relied on trading rather than farming to survive in the rocky mountains; they’re an isolated group of Mozarabs who managed to preserve their customs in the face of Christian dominance; the consist of the last remnant of Astures, Berbers, Visigoths or Carthaginians.
whatever their origins, their dress set them apart whenever they travel throughout Spain, though its become less common to see the distinct outfits in recent decades. men wore wide breeches, white shirts, red garters, and slouch hats. women wore crescent hats, lacy mantles, black skirts and intricate filigree earrings. as with much of traditional Spain, the modern era has withered away both cultural traditions and dress and sightings now remain consigned primarily to museums or tourist sites.
because it is so close to the Castillian frontier, as well as along the Camino, Los Arcos became a toll-collecting station and place to change money. in the 12th century, the king authorized weekly markets and equalized rights between locals and immigrant Francos in an effort to encourage growth of the town. the proximity to Castilla also made it a frequent military target.
the town’s location — on a river with a hill overlooking and farmland spreading out — means it has likely been inhabited since Roman times. a castle protected the city on a hill to the northeast of the city beginning in the 12th century, but that didn’t stop Castilla and Navarra from periodically annexing and/or taking the town by force over the course of the next three hundred years. as elsewhere in the region, the Napoleonic and Carlist wars took their toll on the town, which played host to two battles during the first Carlist War (the one launched from Estella, some 20 kilometers away).
Los Arcos had a tidy, compact plaza in front of the Iglesia de Santa Maria where we enjoyed our afternoon restorative cervezas and, once the kitchen reopened, dinner. construction of the church occurred over six centuries, beginning around 1175. consequently the interior offers an array of decorative and architectural styles including Flamboyant and Flemish Gothic, Baroque, Mannerism, Churrigueresque, and Rococo. beyond the far end of the plaza is the Arco de Felipe V, the last remnant of the defensive system that protected Los Arcos from the 18th onwards.