A Tacomic Look at Tacoma Hotel Totem Pole

World's Tallest Collection of Rotting Historical Curiosities!
posted May 28, 2013
tacoma, tacomic, totem pole, historical rot, kalakala, Old City Hall
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It was a dark and stormy night, Post Defiance (pdef) releases this article calling for the toppling of Tacoma's 100 year old fake totem pole... as the TNT begins reporting the story, so called columnists  calcify into a position of pole preservation.  We've all seen the roadside, Never-never land fiberglass figure collection sold off piece by piece via conspiracy and I imagine the roadside, 100 year old fake totem will be sold off in much the same conspiratorial way... which IS the natural, life-cycle tradition of roadside faked totem poles in other cultures.  EVEN SO, Let's stack all our rotting historical curiosities atop each other!  I imagine the end result would be way taller than the Space Needle. TAKE THAT SEATTLE!

Previously on The Tacomic...

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by NineInchNachos on 5/28/2013 @ 12:33am
world's tallest tacomic!

by NineInchNachos on 5/28/2013 @ 12:42am
world's tallest chalk totem!

worlds tallest totem in chalk!

by Jesse on 5/28/2013 @ 8:05am
Good thing you didn't have to add on the Luzon, Frost Park Fountain, Elks Temple, MM Bridge, Old Town Dock, various other fountains around town, and the state of downtown shopping <----- all things rotten when I moved here in 2006.

by cisserosmiley on 5/28/2013 @ 8:07am
We might as well stack them atop the Tacoma dome too. Why won't the YES on Tacoma dome people have another election. 

by NineInchNachos on 5/28/2013 @ 8:10am
yeah somebody on fb mentioned the dock.   It's not all terrible!  look at the 11th street bridge (MMB)! 

why not give Tallest Totem to the Tacoma Art Museum? Would fit nicely with new culturally inappropriate cowboy&indian art wing. They could chainsaw the Totem into parking lot bumpers !

by JesseHillFan on 5/28/2013 @ 8:19am
A full scale version of this placed in Tacoma would out do the Space Needle and probably attract far more visitors too.

Link doesn't quite go there but you get the idea.

by Mofo from the Hood on 5/28/2013 @ 9:11am
Once again The Conspiracy is trying to confuse and destabilize Tacoman's. The Totem Pole Crisis is a totally manufactured and exaggerated nano-problem. Should the naturally decaying pole simply be ground into sawdust? The Conspiracy created a media diversion in order to bolster and justify its real intent: The procurement of historically significant beauty bark for the absurd Pacific Avenue rain gardens.

by NineInchNachos on 5/28/2013 @ 10:07am

by cisserosmiley on 5/28/2013 @ 10:20am
Totem TAGRO 

by Erik on 5/28/2013 @ 11:45am
Save Tacoma's Historical Totem Pole:

And Old City Hall!

....and fix other broken landmarks and buildings in Tacoma.

Far better than to have an art show about them after they are razed. Why not a rally and art event to save them?

by NineInchNachos on 5/28/2013 @ 3:20pm
fb win!

"Michael Sean Sullivan That is f**king hilarious!"

by NineInchNachos on 5/28/2013 @ 9:10pm

by NineInchNachos on 5/30/2013 @ 4:12pm
brand update!  How do you like the new Tacomic Skin? 

by NineInchNachos on 5/30/2013 @ 8:12pm
maybe ?

by Erik on 5/31/2013 @ 4:02pm
Here my letter to the editor on the matter:

TACOMA: Let’s preserve iconic totem pole

Letter by Erik Bjornson, Tacoma on May 30, 2013 at 11:12 am | 

Tacoma’s totem pole sits dilapidated in Fireman’s Park for one simple reason:

The city has failed to properly maintain it for decades. Built in 1903, the record-breaking totem pole welcomed President Teddy Roosevelt on May 22, 1903, and is an intricate part of Tacoma’s history.Unlike the Luzon Building, which was privately owned, the totem pole is owned by the citizens of Tacoma.

They have a right to see that it preserved and maintained and not destroyed by neglect as has happened with an endless list of Tacoma buildings and landmarks.As former Washington State History Museum director David Nicandri has pointed out, the proposal to let the totem pole rot in the woods is completely misguided and in his words would be “stupid.” Given Nicandri’s nearly unparalleled knowledge of Tacoma’s history, we should take his analysis and dismay seriously.Technically, there are a dozen ways that the totem pole can be preserved and strengthened to last another 100 years in downtown Tacoma relatively cheaply.

Here is a chance for Tacomans to demonstrate they value their history by preserving their iconic landmarks.Read more here:

by Erik on 5/31/2013 @ 4:06pm
Perhaps more interesting, is the following exchange in the comments between Tribune reporter Lewis Kamb and Landmark Commissioner Daniel Lucus Rahe (a rich and in depth read):


  • Daniel Lucus RaheErik Bjornson - I'm one of the commissioners on the LPC. The Art Commission discussion is merely about possibly removing the totem pole from the city's public art roster in order to ease public safety and preservation measures. De-listing may not need to occur. I'm not sure. No one is. That's why they call meetings. Staff identifies the options and presents them to the commissions to discuss and vote on, or to create new options. So, if Arts Commission de-lists the pole, LPC is able to act without waiting for a vote from the Arts Commission as well. Simplifies preservation and mitigation efforts, from what I understand. Please, anyone, correct me if I'm wrong. NEXTLY.... Yes, several members stated that they agreed with the cultural sentiment behind taking the pole down. But those members only said those things because that mee...See MoreReply · 3 · Like · 23 hours ago
  • Erik Bjornson ·  Top Commenter · Attorney at Law Office of Erik Bjornson - Tacoma, WashingtonThanks for the update and clarification Daniel. Please do what you can do to save it. Btw, there are a dozen ways it could be saved, one of which would be to hollow it out and place a metal pole in it after it is dried out and given some preservatives . :=)Reply · Like · 23 hours ago
  • Lewis KambDaniel Lucus Rahe Not sure how you conclude the reporting "has just kinda been misleading." 

    The story I wrote clearly states -- several times -- that the working group's recommendation was unofficial and tentative, and that no final decision has been made.

    The quotes used in the story are verbatim from the meeting. Callaghan posted a complete transcript of the meeting's discussion online.

    Perhaps it is very true that LP commissioners said what they did during the meeting "because that meeting was completely preliminary in nature," as you describe. Still, they said them nonetheless. How is it misleading to simply report what was said? 
    Reply · 2 · Unlike · 22 hours ago
  • Daniel Lucus RaheLewis... That's why I used the informally vague modifier "kinda." Somehow, whether intentional or not, the message that seems to be getting out there is inaccurate. In effect, people seem to be reacting to the LPC as if they are not truly advocates for the pole's preservation. Certainly, the public comment in the media gives us more to consider as we study the coming reports and findings. But, though you may not be able to see it from your perspective, the timbre in pieces like Callaghan's creates something of a false bogeyman in city government - an untrustworthy, scheming, insensitive, incompetent, and hasty bogeyman. Even our attempts to gather as much information and input as possible were looked upon with suspicion. That may not be how it looked from where you and Peter sit, which I understand. I simply hoped to have a partnership relationship with the public in preservation efforts, instead of being part of a somewhat antagonistic one.Reply · Like · 8 hours ago
  • Daniel Lucus RaheOf course, even volunteer participants in the government process require the accountability review of the journalistic process. And, if i was an elected official, I wouldn't be saying any of this for fear of seeming critical of accountability or of having my words misconstrued as imperious. My contention is that the public is probably having a somewhat fruitless conversation about the totem pole. The primary threat is that we don't really know the extent of the damage, the extent of the risk, the feasibility of mitigation, the options for restoration, the implications of the symbology, etc. - not a discussion LPC had about a culturally appropriate demise.Reply · Like · 8 hours ago
  • Lewis KambDaniel Lucus Rahe Perhaps "the message that's getting out there" that's upsetting you has nothing to do with the "coverage" you inaccurately claim is misleading; but rather that: 1) the only recommendation (informal or otherwise) that's been made during the process thus far has been to take down the pole and leave it to decay publicly; 2) that recommendation led to a discussion in which no LPC members opposed the recommendation, but more so talked about strategies of how to sell such a perspective to the public; 3) your own essay on the pole concluded, "Sometimes, we can’t save everything that is old. Sometimes, we shouldn’t;" and 4) directly due to the working group's recommendation, the arts commission has taken the very rare step of convening a de-accession review panel to determine whether to remove the pole from the municipal art collection.

    I understand it's quite easy to blame the media, but even with the informally vague "kinda" modifer you included in your comments above, you also inaccurately claimed the coverage "dreadfully neglected" to mention the LPC has not made a decision. That's just not true. Read the stories. They say several times, rather bluntly, that no decision has been made.

    Also, just to clarify: Other than Callaghan's blog post about the working group's apparent violation of the OPMA (an opinion shared by the WA AG's office), the coverage about the pole has not been accountability in nature. It's been basic, straight-forward coverage of public meetings meant simply to inform about what's going on in the process thus far.

    Really, I don't have a problem with people criticizing my or the TNT's coverage. That comes with the territory. But for anyone who is interested in this issue, I would encourage them to actually read what we've published and to read the transcript of the May 8, 2013 LPC meeting (found at the end of this blog post: Or, better yet, listen to a recording of the meeting here: (discussion begins at the 1:42:26 mark). Then, feel free to judge for yourself who is being "kinda misleading" about characterizations of the process so far.Reply · 1 · Unlike · Edited · 5 hours ago

by Erik on 6/2/2013 @ 9:31am
It turns out that totem poles ARE in act maintained and repaired...outside the City of Destiny at least. Here are some easy steps for totem pole maintenance.  Though, it might take some additional steps for the Fireman's Park pole now that it is in the condition it is.


Totem Pole Maintenance

Conservators Ellen Carrlee and Ron Sheetz at the Governor’s Totem Pole, Juneau, Alaska in May 2010

Southeast Alaska is the land of totem poles.  These iconic outdoor
sculptures are powerful, valuable, and remarkably vulnerable.  The
Tongass National Forest, covering 80% of Southeast Alaska, is a
temperate (cool) rainforest, with precipitation between 80 and 100
inches per year in most places where totem poles are made and
displayed.  (In comparison, Seattle’s annual precipitation is usually
under 40”.)  Imagine placing a wooden pole in the ground and exposing it
to the weather for decades.  Utility poles, which are heavily
impregnated with preservative chemicals, typically last 25-50 years in
much less aggressive conditions.  Most totem poles are not treated with
preservatives when they are erected.          
Ron Sheetz applies water repellent
I’ve been involved in the maintenance of several totem poles, and in
May 2010 had the great pleasure of working with Ron Sheetz, retired
National Parks Service conservator who specializes in furniture and
wooden objects.  Ron has treated well over 50 totem poles in the past
20+ years, and is a wealth of useful information and experience.  We
agreed it might be useful to have basic totem pole maintenance
instructions on the internet.  Ron also wrote a Conserve-O-Gram for the
National Parks Service a few years back called “Protecting Wood with
Preservative and Water Repellents” available at           
SUMMARY:  If you are responsible for the care of a
totem pole in an outdoor environment, a maintenance/inspection schedule
should be developed and carried out.  Inspections should check for loose
parts, damage, and signs of decay or insect infestation.  Borates and
water repellent should be periodically applied.  Borates help protect
against rot and insects, but are water soluble.  Water repellent
protects the pole and prevents the borates from washing out with the
rain.  The application of borates and water repellent should occur every
3 – 5 years, depending on when the water repellents have worn off
(water no longer beads up on the surface of the wood.)  If the totem
will be moved it is recommended to contact the Native community to allow
them the opportunity to comment and to be involved with the
preservation process.  Moisture management is key to preservation. 
Proper drainage around the base of the pole and lead or copper caps at
the top help preserve the wood.  Typically, if you set aside a week to
do the work, that’s plenty of time and allows for vagrancies of

Tons more of the article to read below

by NineInchNachos on 6/3/2013 @ 7:51am
what fun links!  many of those poles listed are around Juneau Alaska where I grew up!

by NineInchNachos on 8/11/2013 @ 10:36am
Legendary carver of tacoma's the welcome figure gives 2¢ on 100 year old tourist trap totem pole