Local sculptor redevelops 3.5 acres in Troutdale

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Rip Caswell, local artist and sculptor, outside the unfinished building he hopes will attracts other artists.A pond brimming with local wildlife in Troutdale is inspiration for Rip Caswell’s latest brainchild.

Caswell bought the 3.5-acre property at the corner of Jackson Park Road and the East Historic Columbia River Highway a couple years ago.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Rip Caswell in the stairway of a building he is designing for artists to live and work.His plans to turn an old building on the land into a live/work colony for artists is quickly making progress.

Caswell hopes to draw artists and the art-minded to the space — situated in a pastoral setting between downtown Troutdale and the Sandy River — as a place to live and work and stimulate creativity.

“This place has just given me so much inspiration,” Caswell said. “I find so much peace and tranquility out here, and I want to share that with others.”’

The renowned bronze sculptor is in the midst of having an old two-story Craftsman structure (built in 1911) on the property reconstructed into four one-bedroom apartments.

While the exterior still shows its stripped blue paint, the inside is nearly complete.

With restored red-fir floors and large rugs, each apartment has a large main room, a bedroom, modern kitchen and bathroom, as well as views of the surrounding scenery — grass fields, woodlands, an old barn and a small pond.

“The pond is really a gem here in Troutdale,” Caswell said.

The ponds on the property were originally dug out by the Mayo family, who purchased the land around 1915 and built apartments on it during World War I. Mayo’s ponds were inspired by those of Captain John Harlow, a former sea captain who is credited with naming Troutdale after the ponds he built near his home.

A fish hatchery still exists on Caswell’s property, and the ponds have become iconic in Troutdale.

The pond is stocked with trout and home to turtles, geese, mallards and wood ducks. The animals have become a source of inspiration for Caswell, who is known for creating sculptures that imitate nature.

Caswell has incorporated his bronze work throughout the building’s architecture.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Inspired by the pond on his Troutdale property, Caswells bronze work is featured inside the newly restored apartments.For instance, bronze sinks in the bathroom of each apartment, which he calls “Water’s Edge,” are decorated with blue herons, a frog and tadpoles swimming in lily pads at the bottom of the sink.

An otter that frequently visits the pond is captured in bronze at the top of the stairwell of the second story. And Caswell designed the banister’s spindles to look like pond reeds swaying in the wind.

The apartments will run for $985 per month each, Caswell said.

The artist has more plans to develop the remainder of the property.

He plans to convert an open field behind the apartments into a sculpture garden “that the community and travelers can enjoy.”

Caswell also has mentioned to the city that he would like to turn the corner portion of the property, where Jackson Park Road meets the historic highway, into an educational hub for the community.

“This is milepost 0 (on the scenic highway),” Caswell said. “It would be a perfect entry for visitors.”

He has proposed converting an old white house on the corner into a spot for a potential bike hub, which the city is considering.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Caswell hopes to turn the corner of Jackson Park Road and the historic highway into a rest area for cyclists and travelers, with access to information and a garden.Because the small building is already outfitted with power, water and sewer utilities, Caswell said, “the structure could be built here and it could be a neat little place for bikes.”

However, there is one slight problem, he said.

Multnomah County owns the right of way that runs directly through the structure on his property. Caswell said he is trying to get the county to release the easement back to him, before he would ask the city to build the hub.

Caswell also has pitched to the city the idea of building a bronze statue recognizing the architects who helped design and build the Historic Columbia River Highway — Sam Hill and Samuel Lancaster.

With the 100th anniversary of the historic highway coming up in 2016, Caswell said, “I feel there is just a real need to celebrate these men. They really left us with quite a legacy.”

Caswell invokes visions of Model T Fords leisurely meandering up the highway and through the gorge, their passengers taking in the surrounding beauty and waterfalls.

Much like Model Ts took visitors on a slow-gazing journey through the gorge, Caswell said bikes are the next closest thing.

“This is really going to be a national draw for people wanting to tour on bikes,” he said.

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