Portland official says controversial bust of York at Mount Tabor Park will be coming down

By Kristian Foden-Vencil (OPB)
June 11, 2021 5:10 p.m.

The city of Portland is planning to eventually take down the controversial statue of York — the only Black member of the Lewis and Clark expedition — which appeared in place of a toppled statue at Mount Tabor Park this spring.

What they’ll replace it with is yet to be decided.

A close up of a sculpture of a man's bust, sitting on a stand that reads "York."

The bust of York, the only Black member of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, appeared mysteriously at Mt. Tabor Park.

Kristian Foden-Vencil / OPB

The bust of York mysteriously appeared after the statue of Harvey Scott, a controversial newspaper editor, was toppled during the racial justice protests last summer. And it’s been vandalized twice since then.

The base of the statue was vandalized in March, when someone spray painted on it, “His Blood Is on Your Hands” and “Decolonize.” Then earlier this week a woman was caught on video covering much of the plinth in purple spray paint.

Police announced Thursday that Jeanette Grode, 43, of Portland is the suspect in the most recent act of vandalism and has been cited for criminal mischief and abuse of venerated objects.


Portland arts program manager Jeff Hawthorne says the statue will eventually have to come down.

“It was always intended to be temporary, so we can’t accession that sculpture the way it’s currently constructed into the public art collection,” Hawthorne said. “And, in fact, it will have to come down at some point.”

He said the statue is made of wood and urethane, not bronze, so it won’t weather well. But he added that the piece can remain there as long as it is viable and doesn’t pose a danger to anyone, and that may not happen for months or years.

Hawthorne said the city is in touch with some artists, and a similar bronze version could go back in its place. But that’ll be decided in community discussions with the city and the Regional Arts and Culture Council this summer.

The Harvey Scott sculpture was damaged, though not beyond repair. But the city is leaning toward deaccession, mainly because of sustained opposition to the sculpture.

Because that part of Mount Tabor is in a historical district, there are some legal requirements for the city to remove the Harvey Scott sculpture from its holdings. The city needs to first indicate its intention not to return the sculpture to its old location and then have discussions about what might go in its place.

Related: New, mysterious Portland monument honors York, an early explorer of Oregon