Fundraising has begun to decorate more of Cottage Grove’s buildings with historical tributes.
The Cottage Grove Historical Society’s Mural Committee, which spearheaded the project to restore the Buster Keaton mural welcoming people to downtown, has two new projects on the horizon which seek to honor the memories of Lena Flaiskey Becker (also known by her moniker Eva Davenport) and the “Blue Goose” steam engine, which powered railway excursions east of town.
Artist Connie Huston is returning to work on both murals. Huston restored the Buster Keaton mural and is responsible for other works of artistry downtown.
The Opal Whiteley mural at All-America Square and the sepia-toned mural at the corner of Fifth and Main streets are both Huston creations. She also restored the Opal mural and the Aqua Lions Swimming Club logo at the Warren H. Daugherty Aquatic Center.
The first mural on the artist’s schedule will be a portrait of Davenport.
Born in 1875, Davenport is believed to have followed her husband to Cottage Grove around the year 1902. Their lives took a turn as her husband had developed a drug addiction and was unable to hold a job. Davenport took to the streets, working as a prostitute in downtown Cottage Grove to support make up for his affliction. Following his imprisonment for burglary, however, she divorced him. Davenport died under suspicious circumstances in 1905.
Researchers like Debra Monsive believe Davenport to have been a victim of trafficking due to her vulnerability situation.
Monsive is president of the Cottage Grove Genealogical Society, a board member on the Cottage Grove Historical Society and a member of the mural committee.
“Doing the research on Eva, it really hit home how vulnerable she was,” said Monsive. “She was out here, she had no family and her husband ended up in prison … her story really speaks to me.”
Rather than being painted directly onto the building, Davenport’s mural will be mounted on the side of The Bookmine on Seventh Street. Huston will be working on the mural off-site until it is ready to be mounted, committee members said.
Cascade Home Center in Creswell is donating the plywood for the mural’s canvas and a frame will be locally built for the painting.
The portrait will be based on a cameo photo of Davenport, which appeared in a July 1965 issue of The Sentinel. The image will be flipped so Davenport is facing Main Street.
At four feet wide and eight feet tall, the background of the portrait will fade into a map showing the location of saloons, a female boarding house and where Davenport’s house was, which all fall around an area around Seventh and Eighth streets and between Main Street and Whiteaker Avenue.
“So, it was a regular little red light hub,” said Monsive of the downtown block.
Local fraternal organization E Clampus Vitus is providing a plaque next to the mural to raise awareness around battered women and human trafficking.
“We want to use her story as a way of letting people know that there’s help out there for people that might need it,” said Cottage Grove City Councilor Kenneth Roberts, who is on the mural committee.
With around $800 left to meet the fundraising goal, the committee hopes to see Davenport downtown later this year.
In the meantime, Monsive will be posted downtown outside the Crafty Mercantile during April’s Art Walk (April 29) with a donation jar and information about Davenport.
“I’ll be happy to talk to anybody about her if they want to know more about who she was and why it’s important. And I’ll have books (about Davenport) for sale as well,” she said.
The mural committee’s second project, the Blue Goose mural, is a bit farther down the tracks.
The Blue Goose was an excursion train in Cottage Grove that chugged along the tracks east of town through the 1970s and ‘80s, transporting passengers for round trips out to Culp Creek and back. Along the way, narrators would entertain with jokes and historical facts.
In late March of 1988, it made its last run. The last of the tracks, owned by Oregon Pacific & Eastern Railway, were dismantled and sold off for scrap by 1994. The pathway was later reformed into the Row River National Recreation Trail as part of a Rails to Trails program.
“And people still talk about [the Blue Goose],” said Monsive, whose father provided narration on the excursion train.
Mural committee member Suzanne Huebner-Sannes recalled many fond memories of hitching rides on the train with her children as it stopped at Cerro Gordo and even the public using the train for out-of-town events by Dorena Lake.
The train also has a prominent role in the 1973 film “Emperor of the North,” which stars Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Keith Carradine and Charles Tyne.
The Blue Goose mural is planned to be painted on the park-facing wall of the American Market building at the corner of Main Street and Highway 99. The wall also faces the train tracks, offering an opportunity for a unique visual trick.
“So then when the train is painted on there, it’s going actually look like it’s sitting on the tracks,” said Roberts.
There is still no final bid on the price for the Blue Goose project, but fundraising for the mural has already begun.
Like the fundraiser for the Buster Keaton mural, the committee intends to hold a raffle, sell posters, put out donation jars and is even hoping to see local microbrewers again apply their skills to crafting a special ale for the cause.
A donation jar and information table will also be set up outside The Bookmine during Art Walk events.
“It’s really important for me to get our history out there so we can educate the new people (moving here),” said Roberts.
“And to have it done in the artful way we get to do it, that’s pretty awesome,” added Huebner-Sannes.
For those wishing to donate to the murals, checks can be written to the Cottage Grove Historical Society with either or both “Eva” and/or “Blue Goose” written in the memo line. The Historical Society’s mailing address is: P.O. Box 142, Cottage Grove, OR, 97424.