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A former iconic restaurant once peopled this building; now a bear decorates the north side, and its name lingers

RITA A. LEONARD - Artist Jeremy Nichols stands with the new bear-themed mural he created on the north wall of a business building at the corner of S.E. Yukon Street and Milwaukie Avenue in Westmoreland.When owners of Westmoreland's "The Iron Horse" retired and closed the iconic restaurant not long ago, John Farley – the owner of the building at S.E. Milwaukie Avenue at Yukon Street – decided to take his structure in a new direction. It has now been extensively remodeled into a small business building offering multiple suites, one of which has already opened as the new location of "yogaRIOT". However, in a nod to its past, the new sign on the building declares it "The Iron Horse Building".

Farley subsequently commissioned artist Jeremy Nichols to create a 20-foot tall, 40-foot-wide mural on the north side of the building, "to bring it back to life with a noteworthy mural. I'd seen another of his local murals with bears in it, and asked him to include bears here, too. The bears represent my family – me, my wife and kids. The title of the mural is 'Welcome to the Northwest'."

Although bear habitat may seem pretty distant to Southeast Portland, many folks recall that, in July of 1999, a yearling black bear did visit the Brooklyn neighborhood. The young male had apparently been traveling east from Tigard toward Mt. Hood – in the process, swimming across the Willamette River. He was captured up a birch tree on S.E. 10th Avenue, where experts with a traveling cage and a tranquilizer gun lowered the bear onto the homeowner's back deck, and from there returned it safely to the wilderness.

As for more about the artist who created the new bear-themed mural: Nichols was born in Japan, but grew up in Ohio, earning a BFA in Printmaking from Ohio State University. His tells THE BEE that his work tends to focus on the energy, balance, and harmony of the world around us – examining the juxtaposition of urban growth and the push to preserve nature. Which would, naturally, include bears.


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