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Letter to the Editor: Working for history

— Working for history

To the editor:

Regarding the March 13 Chronicle article on proposed Granada block redevelopment:

As a property owner affected by the development, an archeologist with over 30 years of field experience, and someone intimately familiar with the archaeological site on the Granada Block, I have taken an active interest in the site and the development. I have also freely offered advice to both the city and the developer, and updated them in a timely manner of our findings.

I own the building at the center of the site, known as the Chinese building, and formally recorded the site with the State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO) in 2008, several years before the Granada Block development plan was conceived. It was not fully understood until we received an excavation permit from SHPO as part of work to restore the Chinese Building.

During our excavations, we found an amazing variety of artifacts. There were bricks left over from building reconstruction, shoes discarded by the first occupants after the fire, and a wealth of artifacts left by the Chinese who had lived and worked in the building for over 40 years. Sure it was all trash, but the items’ value is in their ability to tell us about the people.

The site contains not only the core of Chinatown, but also likely the roots of the town, from Native American to miner, shopkeeper to saloon, barbershop to bordello. The site also includes probably the second-oldest commercial building in town, the Bloch, Miller and Company building (the Blue Building), at one time operated as a dry goods store by Oregon Governor Z. F. Moody. It should be preserved and restored to its former glory.

Two years ago, both the developer and city knew they had a potentially significant archaeological site, a fact they chose to ignore. It may have cost them, by their reckoning, two years and considerable money.

It also cost me my belief the city and developer were working in good faith to respect the archaeological site and my rights. Only after public disclosure of the proposed development, I learned plans included underground parking that would lead to destruction of that portion of the archaeological site. I also learned they had considered condemning my property, something that, fortunately, is no longer allowed under state law.

I will continue to take an active part in efforts to preserve the archaeological site, and believe by thoughtful design the development could preserve the site and leave much accessible to later archaeological investigation.

Eric Gleason

The Dalles

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