Tell me, O wise one: What does a flambéed French saint have to do with the Rose City? I ask because recently, in Laurelhurst, I came upon the improbable statue of one Joan of Arc.
—Koan of Arc
Whatever floats your boat, Koan. Still, I hope you wiped her off when you were done—we just had that thing gilded.
But seriously, folks: The Jeanne d’Arc that so dominates the roundabout at Northeast 39th Avenue and Glisan Street is a full-size reproduction of a statue that still stands at the Place des Pyramides in Paris. It was given to Portland in 1924 by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, who’d seen it in France and thought it was cool.
Still, why a French saint and not, say, a beaver with a salmon in its mouth, riding a bear? Well, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, France was basically America’s girlfriend. For years, the two love-struck nations exchanged gooey mash notes in the form of statuary, including the Statue of Liberty.
Coe, as smitten as anyone, decided that a reproduction of Emmanuel Frémiet’s Joan of Arc would be a good way to slip our old lady the tongue while also commemorating the Americans who perished on French soil in World War I.
Incidentally, we’re not the only U.S. city with a copy of this particular Joan—Philadelphia has one, too. They call theirs “Joanie on the Pony,” which I think we should straight-up steal.
Eventually, we decided that, while being overrun by Germany in one war was tragic, it happening twice was simply careless, and France, for her part, decided we were just dicks, which we are. Thus, our nations’ affair came to an end. At least we’ll always have the world’s largest hood ornament to remember it by.