Restoration work under way for stolen West Seattle totem pole

Inside a hangar-size building in Renton, the totem pole stolen last November from West Seattle Rotary Viewpoint Park lies under a ladder-suspended fan, looking for all the world like a hospital patient, which it is, in a way. The “hospital” is the secure – Department of Homeland Security seals and all – facility of Artech, which not only is a premier restoration business, but also, we learned, staffed by a team including more than a few West Seattleites. They are working on the pole, with repairs and paint, to prepare it for return to West Seattle and a rededication ceremony on August 10th. More photos ahead:

That’s Roger Waterhouse, one of the West Seattleites on Artech’s staff. We first met him last December, long before they officially took on this project, when we talked to Artech about totem-pole restoration in general, after the recovery of this pole. When we met him at Artech HQ this past Tuesday, he explained that this pole’s in “really good shape.” It had been cleaned and fumigated. Compare the resulting color to what it looked like shortly after recovery, when we photographed it at one of the Seattle Parks facilities where it has been stored for the past several months:

(12/14/09 WSB photo after the stolen Rotary Viewpoint Park totem pole was brought back to Seattle)
It has cracks that will be filled with resin – you can see them through its “face”:

Then stain and paint – here’s what its base tone will look like:

The paint will be oil-based, not some special preparation – it comes from Sherwin Williams. They’re using old photos to do their best to recreate its original look. But nothing will be applied till a bit of rot is removed. Its copper cap also will be replaced (the old one is the strip you see in this next photo that looks like tape) – a tradition for totem poles:

The work is expected to be done by the end of the month. It’s being paid for out of $20,000 unofficial restitution from the West Seattle man accused of stealing it, in a deal worked out as an alternative to pressing charges (announced in May); prosecutors said (their explanation here) it only would have been a misdemeanor case, as no actual value was ever assigned to the pole, and even a guilty plea/verdict would not have required payment for restoration. The Rotary Club had waited through prosecutors’ 5-month review of the case before reaching the agreement; there is urgency for them because member Kenny Wise, who sleuthed the case, has terminal cancer, and hopes to see the pole reinstalled before he dies.

7 Replies to "Restoration work under way for stolen West Seattle totem pole"

  • old timer July 16, 2010 (11:10 am)

    Thanks, WSB, for this chapter in the Totem Pole saga.
    Interesting photos and detail.
    Available no where else!

  • Forest July 16, 2010 (11:25 am)

    Please quit pushing the “human interest” angle of urgently rushing to get the pole back in place just in time for Mr. Wise’s death from cancer.

  • Kayzel July 16, 2010 (11:32 am)

    Thanks for this update. Artech does a great job. Will they confer with Robin Young, the man who carved the pole, about color and finish?

    • WSB July 16, 2010 (11:39 am)

      I’m sorry, I forgot to mention that part. They are attempting to make contact with him through his family (from whom we’d heard at one point when we were covering this intensively in the weeks afterward). Artech is a pretty amazing place but we weren’t allowed to photograph anything else as there is a lot of work done there confidentially on behalf of art collectors, etc. There was another piece in for work right next to this totem pole that we had to be careful to keep out of the shots – TR

  • jiggers July 16, 2010 (11:54 am)

    So what happened to the criminals who vandalized the Totem Pole? I forgot. It’s more serious than just vandalism if you ask me.

  • gretchen graber July 31, 2010 (12:16 pm)

    When is the celebration to honor it’s return?

    • WSB July 31, 2010 (12:21 pm)

      August 10th, 5:15 pm. Still clarifying whether it’s at the golf course or the totem pole itself – TR

Sorry, comment time is over.