Cowlitz tribe takes ownership of I-5 sculptures
The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has taken ownership of the towering steel and wooden monuments located along Interstate 5 outside of Toledo, after the 2010 death of their creator, quirky Seattle millionaire Dominic Gospodor.
LONGVIEW — The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has taken ownership of the towering steel and wooden monuments located along Interstate 5 outside of Toledo, after the 2010 death of their creator, quirky Seattle millionaire Dominic Gospodor.
"Knowing Dominic as we did, we feel he would agree: who better could hold and preserve the land for its historical and cultural uses than those who were the original holders of the land. We were honored to work with the native peoples of America that Dominic honored with one of his monument statues," the executor of Gospodor's will and a longtime friend, Audrey Schefers, wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
The trio of statues and a giant weather vane sit atop 100-foot-tall steel pillars to memorialize American Indians, Holocaust victims and Mother Teresa.
Philip Harju, vice chairman and tribal attorney for the Cowlitz, said the tribe accepted ownership of the latticed spires late last year when Schefers offered them the deed.
"The property is supposed to be maintained for its historical and cultural uses," Harju said. "That'll be up to the tribe to interpret."
The tribe does not yet have plans for the eye-catching structures, he said, but the tribal council is working out a management plan. The tribe's cultural, natural resources and economic departments will come together to decide just what to do with the one-of-a-kind memorial park between Toledo and Winlock.
Gospodor, often criticized for spending upward of $1 million on his tributes instead of donating the money to charity, ended up leaving the majority of his estate to the homeless, hungry and poor.
"Now, perhaps those who criticized so readily can stop to reflect the generosity of Dominic Gospodor who left the bulk of his life's work as a simple concrete worker who invested his earnings wisely to benefit the homeless of Seattle and Anchorage," Schefers wrote.
Gospodor, a lifelong bachelor, wanted a nonprofit to take over maintenance of his golden statues and tubular structures, which once stopped traffic and bewildered passers-by. But he left no money to do so.
Harju said the tribe may have to repair some of the wood that is deteriorating on the nearly 10-year-old carved statues of Jesus, Mother Teresa and Chief Seattle.
The tribe will also have to pay $332 a year for property taxes on the 10 acres of land valued at $62,200, according to Lewis County.
The property wasn't Gospodor's original choice. The Seattle man first planned to build near Sutherlin, Ore., but became embittered on the place after facing staunch citizen opposition. Some people in the Winlock-Toledo area also criticized his plans. But a determined Gospodor forged forward despite confronting conflict previously in Oregon and Seattle.
After Gospodor's death just before his 87th birthday, his towers stopped twinkling because the estate turned off the electricity. Gospodor, who made his millions mostly in opportune real-estate dealings, once estimated it cost $150 a month for the electricity.
The Cowlitz tribe may turn the lights back on, illuminating one of the nation's most eccentric attractions.