14 Sep Bronze Statue honors heritage of Parkrose

More than a century ago, 10 years before Parkrose even existed, Joe Rossi’s great-grandfather immigrated from Italy and bought land in what would become the Northeastern edge of Portland.

The family has farmed the land there ever since while the community has grown and changed.

Now Rossi is leading the charge to celebrate Parkrose’s 100th anniversary. And at the heart of the celebration is the unveiling of a bronze statue that will honor the immigrants like his great-grandfather who founded the area — and the immigrants reshaping the community today and in the future.

The Parkrose Community Foundation will hold its centennial bash on Saturday, Oct. 1, with a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony for the custom bronze statue, an 11:30 a.m. parade and a 12:30 p.m. reception. To whip up enthusiasm and raise money for the Parkrose Outdoor School Program, a 6 p.m. free movie night will take place this Saturday, Sept. 10, at Rossi Farms, 3839 N.E. 122nd Ave.

While the foundation gets ready for the party, Rossi is keeping an eye on the bronze sculpture’s progress. The life-size bronze figure, once it leaves the foundry in Boring, will sit on the traffic island at Northeast 98th Avenne and Sandy Boulevard, and serve as a gateway to the community.

Parkrose bronze sculptor James Gion lives about nine blocks from where his bronze artwork will stand. The city of Portland commissioned Gion to produce the bronze columns at the Japanese American Historical Plaza at Gov. Tom MccCall Waterfront Park. He’s also done bronze sculptures on display at the Oregon Zoo.

Organizers who have raised $240,000 toward the $300,000 project didn’t want a larger-than-life statue in Parkrose. They wanted a man about six feet tall dressed in immigrant garb, standing beside his travel bag, hands on hips, looking North/Northwest toward where the Portland International Airport is now.

The direction is significant because that’s where the farm fields and dairies that employed many early Italian, Dutch and German immigrants used to lie.

“We wanted a bronze statue that could look like anybody,” Rossi said. “We wanted the image to project humility. It’s meant to be a humble being pausing between one world and the other.”

Amelia Salvador, who grew up in Parkrose as the daughter of immigrants from the Philippines, agreed.

“This life size statue is my dad,” said Salvador, marketing director for the project. “But it’s not just my dad. It’s meant to represent all the immigrants from the past, and the present, and the future.”

The effort for a large bronze statue comes at a time when the Parkrose community is more diverse than ever. The effort also comes as the Parkrose Business Association wants to beautify the area and better establish its identity, Salvador said.

Parkrose has changed a lot since a group of Parkrose businessmen incorporated in 1911.

In the 1920s, some of the farmland that once supplied early Portland’s population with food was developed into motels. The motels then became resting places for Portland travelers riding in the automobiles that bumped horses and wagons off Northeast Sandy Boulevard, Parkrose’s main road.

The community changed more as more farmland became housing developments.

In the 1960s, the new Banfield interstate led motorists and shoppers to bypass Sandy Boulevard. The Gateway Shopping Center, with its Fred Meyer, pulled customers away from Parkrose mom-and-pop businesses, Rossi said.

Then Portland annexed the area in the 1980s and the community’s identity vanished a little more.

But this most meaningful of bronze statues and centennial celebration are changing that, organizers say. Newcomers and longtime residents alike will be reminded that the area has its own history and heritage.

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