April 3rd, 2008 5:33 pm | by JOHN MINERVINI News | Posted In: City Hall, Politics

When I See an Elephant Fall: Demolition Begins on PDX Icon “Packy” Mural


[Packy activist and Voodoo Doughnuts co-owner Tres Shannon protests Packy's demolition at Mercy Corps' new heaquarters.]

Demolition began today at the site of Portland-based nonprofit Mercy Corps' new global headquarters in Old Town's Skidmore Fountain Building (28 SW 1st Avenue, just off West Burnside Street). And when contractors Marsh Construction Co. began taking down the upper sections of the north wall, the first thing to go was a mural, by Portland artist Eric Parsons, of Packy, Portland Zoo's famous Asian elephant.

Portland-born Packy—who turns 56 in two weeks—is famous for being the largest Asian elephant in the United States. He stands 10 feet 6 inches at the shoulder and weighs in at about 13,500 pounds. Packy's birth made international news in 1962, as he was the first Asian elephant to be born in the Western Hemisphere in over 44 years.

Commenting on the demolition, Portland Zoo media relations officer Bill LaMarche said, "I'm crushed that Portland is losing an important part of its culture and history. I hope that someone in the community steps up to create a new Packy mural."
But the mural's loss caused particular angst in one resident, Tres Shannon, co-owner of Portland-based Voodoo Doughnuts. He staked out the site with his dog, a black Labrador retriever named Oprah, in an effort to stop the demolition. Shannon expressed dismay that a piece of public art was being taken down, with no formal ceremony and no plans to replace it:

“It's beautiful. It's a fucking amazing piece of art. Look, you've got Packy, the planet earth, the Rose City—you've got everything. And they're just taking it down. Mercy Corps wants to be a good neighbor? This is not a good neighbor.”

Despite Shannon's protests, demolition workers continued to dismember the elephant, brick by brick, beginning with its large forehead.

“It's getting a fucking lobotomy,” said Shannon.

Mercy Corps communications director Susan Laarman reassured WW that the organization had been in regular communication with artist Eric Parsons, as well as the Portland Zoo, about plans to renovate the building. She says Mercy Corps plans to display original photographs of the mural in the new lobby, in a permanent display about the building's history.

“Everyone feels that the mural has been an icon," Laarman says. "Hopefully Mercy Corps' new building will be an icon that people can revere as much.”

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