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‘We Heard The Thump’

Roommates Vow Fallen Totem Pole Will Rise Again

By Cara DeGette, Editor, GPHN

When the totem stood tall. Photo by Stephen Black

 One day last month, Stephen Black and C.J. Bailey noticed the totem pole standing in front of their rental house on the corner of 26th and Cherry was leaning at a 33.5-degree angle. It looked precarious.

“We were discussing the situation over coffee, and during that discussion, we heard the THUMP,” said Bailey. “Upon running outside to the front yard, we discovered the answer to the age-old question: If a totem pole falls in Park Hill, does it make a sound?

“It did.”

The totem pole used to be a tree. About 20 years ago it was victim of Dutch elm disease. Like several other killed trees of that era around the neighborhood, its remains were subsequently chainsawed and carved into a piece of art.

Stephen Black, at left, and C.J. Bailey on the fateful day of the fall. Photo by Cara DeGette

The totem pole is not the first to topple. Eight years ago, a 25-foot tree sculpture at 23rd and Ash fell over during a snowstorm. The tree art was called Angelita de la Noche (Angel of the Night), and the Denver Post initially reported, incorrectly, that it was the victim of vandals. Actually, the base had just rotted out.

Three years ago at 2324 Grape St., a tree statue in the shape of a winged creature was removed after a diagnosis of root decay. Owners Peg and Keith Meagher had named the statue “Nino,” and it had become home to flickers, squirrels and bees. Like Angelita de la Noche, the Nino statue was created by Arvada wood sculptor David Mitchell.

It appears the totem pole was also victim of root rot, which really, really bummed out Black and Bailey. The sculpture was a big draw a couple years ago when the roommates discovered the house was available for rent. In fact, it was one of the main reasons why they moved in. When it toppled last month, they moved it off the sidewalk and onto the lawn, using a complicated-looking system involving straps, pulleys, a truck and their two dogs Luna Blue and Rainer.

No one was injured by the falling totem, and many, many neighbors stopped by the day of the crash to mourn the fallen sculpture. One guy, Black said, wondered how he would find his way home without the familiar landmark to guide him. However, on a bright note, the landlord, the roommates reported, is game to try to resurrect the totem pole, possibly with the help of cement.

“It will stand erect again,” Bailey vowed. “If we can put a man on the moon, we can do this.”

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