Lake Oswego Rotary Club, City partner to restore old bandstand
No one is quite sure who built the bandstand in lower George Rogers Park or how long it's been there, but City officials have known for a while that the wooden structure was in need of some help.
"We've replaced roofing before, the handrails have been replaced and probably some decking," says Crew Leader Greg Tracy, who works on special projects and facilities for Lake Oswego's Parks Department. "But there hasn't been a major renovation in at least nine years."
That all changed last month, though, when Tracy and his team partnered with the Lake Oswego Rotary Club to overhaul the bandstand. The City provided the materials, Rotarians volunteered their labor. And over the course of several weekends, they primed, painted and pressure-washed together, ripping out and replacing the dry-rotted stage floor along the way.
On Oct. 9, they'll celebrate together, too, when Rotarians walk down to the park from their regular Monday meeting at the Lakewood Center to enjoy a concert featuring musicians from the Lake Oswego School District. The music is scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m., and the public is invited.
It's an accomplishment worth celebrating, Tracy says.
"We've had help on other projects — from Friends groups or Eagle Scouts, for example," he says, "but this is one of the bigger ones. This is pretty rare."
It's not so rare for the Rotarians, though, who are always deeply involved in community service projects throughout the city. In fact, the bandstand idea originated in the club's Community Service Committee with a suggestion from Bob Liddell, who was honored by Lake Oswego as an Unsung Hero in 2015 for his work on behalf of arts organizations.
"Bob and Rotarians with construction experience — people like (City Councilor) Skip O'Neill and (City Manager) Scott Lazenby — got us started in the right direction," says Dave Beckett, who agreed to take the lead on the project and eventually recruited 14 Rotarians to help. "They were also key in bringing the right tools. But this was a very cooperative effort between the City and Rotary. Without Greg's help, this never would have happened."
Tracy first met with the Rotarians in July and agreed to provide the materials. He special-ordered nearly three dozen 20-foot-long boards for the decking and contributed five gallons of primer and 15 gallons of paint, as well as a sprayer, tarps and other equipment.
City employees — including Daniel Gilgan, Kevin Keefe and Rudy Scamarone — got everything set up for a series of weekend work parties and then cleaned up the site afterward, even making sure that sprinklers in the park were timed so that the lumber didn't get wet while it was still on the ground.
Tracy himself painted the trim and did some final touch-up.
"I'm pretty happy with the work," he says.
Tracy says the bandstand has been in place "forever," and he knows it's used extensively during the annual Festival of the Arts by a children's theater group, a dance troupe and others. The wooden structure, with a ramp leading to an elevated stage, offers a dramatic view of the historic Iron Furnace and the Willamette River beyond.
But City officials and preservation experts have come up empty in their search for any information about where the bandstand came from or how long it has been in place.
"In the 1970s and '80s, although there are many articles about concerts in George Rogers Park, none mention the bandstand," says Marylou Colver, president and founder of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society. "Searching (in historical archives) for the keywords 'bandstand' and 'George Rogers Park' returned no results. I also didn't find any photos of it on the library's website. It seems to be a dead end for now."
Colver says there are records of a bandstand in early Oswego — a gift to the community from George Washington Prosser in the late 1800s. Located near the town's baseball field, it featured steps that led to a stage about 15 feet off the ground. But Colver says that in Prosser's day (he lived from 1847 to 1917), "the town's baseball field was located where the Oswego Village shopping center is today, so the bandstand would probably have been located there, not in what's now George Rogers Park."
A mystery, to be sure, but certainly not a deterrent to Beckett and his colleagues, who say the bandstand has a brighter future now.
"Now it will be in great shape when someone wants to use it," Beckett says.
And not an issue for Tracy, who says the City is "always open to any ideas for improvements in the community."