Popular Port Angeles sculpture lies in waiting for a new home
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“The Gandy Dancer” lies alone in a parking lot this week after being unceremoniously uprooted from its waterfront post a year ago. --Photo by Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News
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Peninsula Daily News
"The Gandy Dancer" as it posed on a Railroad Avenue sidewalk before reconstruction days.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Wanted: a home for one temporarily out-of-place gandy dancer.

The all-metal railroad worker sculpture that once stood vigil along Railroad Avenue now lies on its side in a private parking lot just south of Railroad.

Nathan West, the city's community and economic development director, said “The Gandy Dancer,” as the all-black sculpture is called, was removed in October 2012 as part of the creation of the $3.9 million waterfront esplanade.

West said he's working with the Port Angeles Downtown Association, which owns the sculpture through the Art on the Town program in conjunction with the city, to determine the best of three preferred spots to replant The Gandy Dancer, named after an early 20th century term for a railroad track worker.

Those locations are a spot near City Pier on the east end of Railroad Avenue, a piece of private property south of the avenue between Pacific Rim Hobby and Barhop Brewing, and the Captain's Plaza area on the west end of the esplanade, West said.

“We will work with [the downtown association] to install the artwork in whichever one of those preferred locations works for them,” West said.

“We certainly want to help them in any way we can to identify a new home for the Gandy Dancer.”

Charles Smith is a member of the downtown association's Art on the Town committee, which maintains most of the downtown sculptures.

He said he's been working with the owner of the property in between Pacific Rim Hobby and Barhop Brewing and is in talks with the owner of a spot near the Railroad Avenue Dairy Queen.

“As soon as I get permission of some property owner, it can go back up,” Smith said.

“That was our goal, to keep it on Railroad because that was where the tracks were.”

Railroad tracks managed by the Milwaukee Railroad were laid down on a raised trestle in the early 1900s where the avenue now runs.

They were taken out in the mid 1980s, said Scott Johns, city associate planner.

Smith said the sheer size and weight of the Gandy Dancer has contributed to the delay in finding the piece a new home.

“It's been troublesome because it's such a large piece,” Smith said.

“It has the tracks and the railroad ties with it.”

The piece will stay in storage in its current spot until a new place can be found, Smith added.

“He's scheduled to be clean and repaired, but we want to do that and have him placed, and not put him back in storage,” he said.

Smith said the metal railroad worker, built by Gig Harbor artist Jim Mattern, is one of a handful of Art on the Town sculptures displaced by the esplanade construction.

Others include AR Tee the Eagle, Curious Crane and Webb the Pelican, a trio of metal birds temporarily roosted at downtown association's North Laurel Street office, Smith said.

“We're going to continue to [try to] find homes for all the artwork,” Smith said.

“Hopefully we'll have them up and ready by spring at the latest.”


Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 12. 2013 6:01PM
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