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The totems that used to grace Clackamas Town Center have a new home - and you can visit them if you miss the massive poles
by: patrick sherman, The giant cedar totems removed from Clackamas Town Center in 2004 have settled in nicely at their new home in Stevenson, Wash.

Some old friends from Clackamas County have settled into their new home, which offers a spectacular river view and spacious outdoor living. They are the three giant cedar totems that previously graced the Clackamas Town Center, removed in 2004 as the mall began a major renovation, set to wrap up this year.


Standing tall since 2005 at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum, the move was a homecoming of sorts, according to Robert Peterson, the museum's building and grounds supervisor.

'We're glad to have them,' he said. 'In a sense, we feel that they've come home. One of the trees used to create the carvings came from right here in Skamania County, and the other two came from just across the county line. We thought that was kind of neat.'

Plans originally called for the totems to reside indoors, but their sheer scale made that impossible.

'We wanted to keep the three trees together, which was a constraint in bringing them inside,' said Peterson. 'We've treated them with a preservative designed specifically for cedar.

'They will be due for another coat next year. Preserving them is important to us, but it will smell like crazy for a few days after we do it.'

Plans call for a cantilever roof to be extended out over the totems when funding becomes available, but in the meantime each is fitted with its own weatherproof cap.

'They were on site for about a year before we were able to put them up,' Peterson said. 'To protect them, we kept them wrapped in billboard material. One of my co-workers is from Idaho, and he has access to that heavy-duty material that they do the printing on - so one of them had a man and a woman together on a beach, and another one was covered with bright colors.'

The totems have been visited by some old friends since the move and they have made some new friends, as well.

'It's been interesting,' said Peterson. 'We have a lot of guests who come by and say to us, 'Those carvings are a lot like these ones that we saw at a mall down in Oregon.''

One couple visited after discovering that Dudley Carter, the aged artist who carved the totems, was a distant relation.

'They went by the mall, but this was after they had already been moved,' explained Peterson. 'Someone in the mall office directed them up here, so they drove up and spent the night in Stevenson, then came to see us the next day. They were excited to see the trees and that they hadn't been destroyed, and we're actually closer to where they live.'

Since their creation in 1980, the totems played roles in the lives of many different people - roles that they continue to play today.

'There is one local couple here, they went on one of their first dates at the mall in Clackamas and stood next to these trees,' Peterson said. 'Then, a couple of months later, he proposed to her next to those trees.

'He had been a timber faller all his life, so he appreciated the scale of them. Now, they are right here, and he still likes to come by and see them.'

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