What’s In Your Attic?

Jim Toler (descendant of Gov. Geer) stands with Susan Ehrman and Louis Sloss (descendants of Gov. Meier) at a 2015 unveiling of the Oregon governors’ portraits.

Oregon State Capitol Foundation seeks help
tracking down governors’ portraits

In an effort to help preserve our state’s history and make it accessible to Oregonians, educators, art enthusiasts, history buff and others, the Oregon State Capitol Foundation is launching the Governors’ Portraits Search to locate and catalog missing portraits of former Oregon governors.

“We know many oil paintings of territorial and state governors were lost when the Capitol burned in 1935, but we also know some of them were saved from the fire,” said Joan Plank, Capitol Foundation Board member.

“My grandfather Arch Geer, who I called Pappy, helped rescue portraits of the governors from the walls of the burning building, including Gov. Geer’s portrait, but it vanished. Years later, Pappy found the Geer portrait in Walden Hall at Willamette University. After its restoration, the painting made its way to the Geer building at MacLaren School, eventually making its way back to the Capitol.”

Kathy Withycombe holds a portrait of Gov. James Withycombe, who was the fifteenth governor of Oregon. Photo courtesy of Claire Withycombe.

Last year, the Capitol Foundation learned that the great-great-granddaughter of Gov. James Withycombe, Claire Withycombe, discovered a formal portrait of the former governor hanging in her grandmother’s home. While it is unknown if this portrait, painted while Gov. Withycombe was still in office, ever hung in the Capitol, its discovery gives us hope that other artwork depicting Oregon’s former governors may still exist.

The Capitol Foundation is asking for help tracking down any formal portraits of Oregon’s former governors. While the public may schedule an appointment to view paintings and busts of some former Oregon governors that are displayed in the State Archives Administrative Suite during Capitol construction, others may be in private homes, schools, universities, museums, businesses, court houses, or public buildings.

Capitol Foundation board member Bruce Bishop said,”We want to know about the portraits so we can log their existence.” The nonprofit does not want to reclaim the portraits and will keep the location of artwork located in residences private.

“We know where a few portraits and busts are located, but around 27 portraits are missing. With each portrait we locate, we learn interesting background stories about the governor or portrait itself. It’s a great way to learn more about Oregon history,” said Bishop.

Portrait of Gov. T.T. Geer, the tenth governor of Oregon.

If you have information about the location of any of the missing portraits, please contact OSCF at oscf@oregoncapitolfoundation.org or 503-363-1859.

For more information about the Oregon State Capitol Foundation, visit www.oregoncapitolfoundation.org.

About Oregon State Capitol Foundation

Oregon State Capitol Foundation is dedicated to preserving the people’s building as a vibrant place to engage with history and democracy as well as sponsoring educational programs focused on heritage and civics education. In 2015, the Capitol Foundation became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is funded by generous donors and purchasers of Pacific Wonderland license plates. For more information, visit www.oregoncapitolfoundation.org or call 503-363-1859.

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