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- Portland Tribune - News
Every week in Stumptown Stumper, the Portland Tribune offers a trivia question and answer to help you boost your Rose City IQ.
Q: What's the secret behind all of the rose murals on buildings around town?
A: You've surely seen them from the road or while whizzing by on the MAX: giant roses decorating the facades of 17 buildings throughout the city, plus one in Milwaukie and another in Vancouver.
Is it a coincidence, or are they all related? Is it part of some elaborate scavenger hunt, related to Rose Festival activities of years past?
In fact, the murals are the creative brainchild of Portland real estate magnate Joe Weston, who has been commissioning them on the buildings he owns for the past 18 or 19 years.
'We had up to 26 at one time,' Weston said. 'We painted some of them out as we've sold the properties, like the one at Commonwealth Building (downtown) and Cascade Square (in Beaverton).'
Weston says he likes to add another mural to the city skyline every year or so, but after the most recent one went up, on the Ross Island Plaza on Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard, they've been on hold due to the death of his longtime painter, Jerry Harley.
So why roses? Of course, this is the City of Roses, but can one city have too many?
Apparently not. 'I just liked them,' Weston said. 'We just started, and people seemed to like them.'
The murals also serve a utilitarian purpose. Some of them are painted lower down on the buildings because they seem to stop graffiti.
'(One) got tagged and tagged and we put a rose on it and it never got tagged again,' Weston said. 'There seems to be a code of ethics among taggers: They won't tag a building with art.'
But the real secret behind Weston's 'rose garden,' as he calls it, is knowing whom each mural is named after. They're all people Weston has wanted to honor over the years, either personally or professionally.
There's one named after his mother, Grace; there's Sarah Snow, his former secretary; Mary Lou Fendall, his children's former nanny and family friend; Joyce Waddell, his vice president of accounting; and Bill Potts and Frank Edwards, two of his best friends. There's Kathleen Gorman, his eighth-grade teacher; Sam Bates, who gave him his first job as a soda jerk; and Martin and Grace Johanson, to whom he used to deliver the Oregon Journal in the 1950s.
In 2005 he also honored former Mayor Vera Katz with a rose, even though Weston said he didn't always agree with her policies. 'We hit loggerheads a couple of times,' he said, 'but that's the sign of a good politician.'