Totem pole returned to the Red Mill Totem House

The historic totem pole is back up at the Red Mill Totem House. For the last two-and-a-half months, artist Greg Colfax, a member of the Makah Tribe, has been working to restore the 75-year-old totem pole up at Neah Bay.

A few dozen people gathered this morning as a giant crane came in and hoisted the 30-foot pole back into its original position at 3058 NW 54th St. “It’s gorgeous! Just gorgeous!” Red Mill owner Babe Shepherd exclaimed.

A picture of the totem pole in front what was then a souvenir shop in 1939.

Colfax says some of the rotted wood had to be replaced, including the base and he added a support beam through the hollow middle. He primed and painted the entire thing white before adding the color, a technique he says is challenging because you can see any wiggle of the paintbrush on the white background.

Artist Greg Colfax next to the newly-refurbished totem pole.

Colfax believed until just a few days ago that the pole was carved by Jimmy John, but a 1939 newspaper clipping from the Seattle Daily Times states that the pole was carved by J. Houston and Leonard Porter, two employees of the Northwesters’ Arts and Crafts Shop. “It’s representative of non-native work, by guys who were rookies,” Colfax says.

A look at the pole before restoration

Red Mill owner John Shepherd, Babe’s brother, says they plan to open the Red Mill Totem House next month.

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