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The Ivy Bear returns to the mountain

The Ivy Bear Family Pizzeria brings back a local landmark


by: POST PHOTO: JIM CLARK - POST PHOTOs: JIM CLARK Above, Scott Olsen and his father opened the Ivy Bear Family Pizzeria on Nov. 1 and returned one of the area€sˇÃ„ôs landmarks. Upper left, a mural of Mount Hood is displayed inside the Ivy Bear Family Pizzeria.

Inside a recently renovated restaurant along Highway 26, Scott Olsen can hear the horns of passing cars. That sound, Olsen knows, is the community thanking him for restoring one of the area’s iconic landmarks.

For more than two decades, the Ivy Bear, which stood taller than the building it was adjacent to, was gone and nothing more than a legend, spread by those old enough to remember the unique figure. But with the recent opening of Olsen’s restaurant, The Ivy Bear Family Pizzeria, the 34-foot-tall wooden sculpture returned, along with a piece of the area’s history.

“It’s an old tradition that I’m glad we can bring back,” Olsen says. “It was gone for more than 20 years, and that’s enough time for an entire generation to forget about it. So it’s great to bring it back for the community.”

The new restaurant, at 54735 Highway 26 in Sandy, opened Nov. 1, shortly after the towering bear was assembled. Since that day, Olsen is often visited by longtime mountain residents eager to share tales of the bear’s lineage and memories of it from their childhood.

“The response from the community has been pretty therapeutic for me,” he says. “It makes me a lot more ambitious and motivated.”

In the early-1900s a restaurant at the site gained notoriety for its petting zoo, which contained animals rescued by Rose Moody, an Alder Creek resident. by: POST PHOTO: JIM CLARK - A mural of Mount Hood is displayed inside the Ivy Bear Family Pizzeria.

A favorite among visitors was a tamed bear, known for its entertaining ability to open and drink bottles of Coca-Cola. In 1945, a tall wooden sculpture called the Ivy Bear was carved as an homage to the popular animal and displayed outside the restaurant, easily visible to drivers heading to or from the mountain.

Its legend grew as quickly as the ivy that eventually engulfed it. But time took its toll on the sculpture, causing the wood to rot and eventually collapse in a windstorm in 1989.

Efforts by members of the community to restore the figure never materialized. In 2010, though, Scott and his father, Eric Olsen, thought about bringing the bear out of hibernation.

Scott had always been entranced by the beauty of Mount Hood and became well versed with the area’s landmarks. He would even sneak away to the mountain for days at a time, more than happy to sleep in the back seat of his car just to spend the night in the woods.

Scott, who had worked in the pizza business for several years, and his father were motivated by an idea to open a restaurant along Highway 26 that would cater to locals as well as passing travelers.

When they saw the old Ivy Bear restaurant was for sale, they knew this was their chance.

“I really felt like we found this place by fate,” says Scott, who noticed the “for sale” sign less than 12 hours after the building went on the market. “And the best part of the history of this place is that it’s the Ivy Bear. There’s not too many with the unique history of this place.”

They restored the old building and created a restaurant that was also essentially a Mount Hood museum, with its abundance of artifacts lining the walls. Across the street, neighbors Josh Krushwitz and his mother, who worked at the restaurant in the 1970s as a young girl, spent a month building a larger replica of the Ivy Bear from memory.

“It was a lot of work,” Krushwitz says. “We’ve never built anything like that before. It’s a landmark. I remember it as a kid, and it’s been gone for a while.”by: POST PHOTO: JIM CLARK - In 1989 the Ivy Bear wooden sculpture collapsed in a windstorm.

Scott planted ivy at the base of the bear, which they built out of metal rods. He believes that in three or four years, the figure will look exactly like it once did.

Since the day the restaurant opened, the Ivy Bear has received plenty of attention from locals, and Scott hopes the sculpture will attract people traveling to the mountain during the ski season.

“We’ve been getting a great response,” he says. “This place blew up at the seams since we threw up the open sign. Everyone really likes what we’re doing.

“Usually the first thing people say when they come in is, ‘Thank you for bringing back the Ivy Bear.’ ”