Since 1936 a totem pole has watched over the Totem House restaurant – until today. The rotted, weathered pole is no longer there.
While John Shepherd is busy renovating the interior of what will be the Totem House Red Mill, the building’s owner is having the 75-year-old totem pole completely refurbished.
The newly-exposed beams inside the building.
This morning two cranes were brought in to lift the 30-foot pole onto a boat trailer to make the journey up to Neah Bay where Greg Colfax, a member of the Makah Tribe, will get to work. He has one mission, “To return it, as close as possible, to the day it was installed,” Colfax says. “It will have the same painting, it’ll have the same glow of its newness.”
The pole was originally carved by Jimmy John, who was from a tribe on Vancouver Island, Colfax says. The pole is done in Haida style, which is not John’s traditional look. Colfax tells us that John was commissioned to carve this totem pole by the original building owners back in the 1930’s and there is no story in the pole’s 30 feet.
A close-up shot of the weathered, old pole.
Through the years the pole has gone untouched. It is rotting on the outside and the inside. “The totem pole has been neglected over the years and needs a complete restoration,” Shepherd tells us.
As the crew worked to secure the pole this morning, they had several concerns: One was the rotted wood, another was that they had no idea how the pole was secured to the ground and the building. Turns out it was sitting on a six-inch piece of steel rebar with two stakes halfway up, attaching it to the building. That’s it.
Colfax, shown here, says he has a nervous excitement for this project.
Colfax has a deadline of August 15th to have the pole restored back to its original look. Shepherd, in the meantime, is working to restore the rest of the building for a September opening. “Hopefully this thing will live on forever,” Shepherd says.