Every Friday in Stumptown Stumper, the Portland Tribune offers a trivia question and answer to help boost your Rose City IQ.
Q: Just how does anyone wash the windows of the tall glass spires atop the Oregon Convention Center?
A: Very carefully, says Mike Williams, partner of a Salem-based company called White Glove Building Maintenance. His company contracts with the convention center to do the once-or-twice-a-year cleaning of the 250-foot-tall twin towers, the equivalent of about 20 stories.
'We have to climb it manually because there's no elevator,' he says. 'Everything's packed up, hauled to the top. We go over the side and clean the windows. We have to watch the weather closely because it's not a large wall to work on and it could get windy.'
Williams added that his four-person crew also is trained in on-site rescue techniques because it would be too difficult for the fire department to perform the tricky rescue.
Since they're used to heights, do the window washers enjoy rock climbing on their days off? 'We don't want risk-takers,' Williams says. 'Everybody thinks you do rock climbing and stuff like that.
'I have done some rock climbing, but the real mentality of this business is long-term safety. We want somebody comfortable at heights but conscious that safety's first.'
The towers were completed along with the first phase of the convention center in 1991, the inspiration of design architect Bob Frasca. Originally, they were designed to be taller, Frasca says, but due to some concerns about air traffic they were lowered a bit.
'But I still think they stand out, in a good way,' he says. 'The whole idea was to have a visual connection between the east side of the Willamette and the west side. Downtown and everything else is on the west side. We really wanted to plant the flag on the east side.
'The wish someday is that both sides of the river would be very, very active. My longtime wish is that the east-side freeway would go away. We'd really have a city like Paris with stuff going on on both sides of the river.'
There were other, more practical benefits of the towers as well, Frasca says.
Like providing the natural light that shines in and being a beacon in the night sky, since it lights up. And being a distinctively Portland icon for the city, used in marketing materials.
That always helps.
Next week's question: Which brick building in Southeast Portland used to be the Ford Motor Co.'s only assembly plant in Oregon?