New signs of civic pride in Oregon City Library Park
Oregon City Library Board member Don Wright said he wasn't expecting to see the new carved wooden signs at Library Park.
With the signs installed May 3, it would be an understatement to say he was impressed with the result, which he saw as impactful, historically appropriate and stunningly beautiful.
"I came up the street, and pow, there it was," Wright said. "It's not just a sign, it's a sign of civic pride."
Library Director Maureen Cole agrees "the library signage is representative of the Carnegie Building and complements our location and historic area."
McLoughlin Neighborhood Association Vice-Chair Denyse McGriff also was happy with the signs.
"It just looks incredible," McGriff said. "It's got everything on it that we wanted, and it's short and sweet."
As happy as McGriff was with the new, historically sensitive signs, she was equally unhappy with the sign installed during the 2015-16 renovation and expansion of the original 1913 Carnegie Building. McGriff had a surprise of her own just a couple years ago when she saw the "nondescript and institutional" plastic signs installed by the city and its project contractor P&C Construction, even after she had been assured by the architect that a public process would be conducted to design appropriate signage.
"Somebody came by here one day and called me to say, 'Hey, the signs are missing,' and I couldn't believe it," McGriff said. "Next thing we knew they installed the signs with blue lettering on a white background here."
Now stowed in history's trash bin, the 2016-18 Library Park signage might have been appropriate in front of a hospital, but not in front of a historic civic building in the Northwest's oldest city, McGriff said. Installing signage on a public project without consulting citizens would have been bad enough, she said, but adding insult to injury was the fact that the city and the contractor lost the historically appropriate pre-2016 signage.
Installed around 2005, the lost signs had been paid for using funds raised by the neighborhood association in cooperation with local citizens and business owners. They had highlighted the Carnegie Center, which at the time hosted an art center, cafe and interactive play space for kids.
McGriff and Wright prefer to focus on the positive aspects of the new Library Park signs. Although the library director was never faulted for Oregon City Sign-Gate 2016, Cole gets a lot of the credit for resolving the local scandal.
"She realized that not all of the i's were dotted and not all of the t's were crossed in terms of the process for new library signage, and she really stepped up to make it right," Wright said.
Cole helped spearhead a committee, including members of the Library Board and Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, to develop a signage design process. She said that the committee "worked diligently" with sign maker Justin Riede of Riede Signs on the design.
Riede was an appropriate choice, McGriff said, since he apprenticed with the maker of beloved signs in Oregon City that appear over many of its historic houses. Similar to park signage along the Historic Columbia River Highway, signs announcing visitors' arrival to Oregon City's Singer Hill and the end of the Oregon Trail are all carved out of wood.
"Signage is part of the total package that makes a place what it is," McGriff said. "The historic nature of this site [at Library Park] is really important."