One of the 16 frogs on the retaining wall at Saxman
The park was designed along a main axis—Totem Road—with totem poles on each side, and a rectangular area enclosed with logs carved with frog heads. Leading to the square, there are two stairways marked by totem poles on each side. U.S. Forest Service Architect Linn A. Forrest designed the sixteen frogs breakers.
In 1938, the Civilian Conservation Corps developed the Saxman Totem Park. The program was part of a larger U.S. Forest Service effort to employ Alaska Natives and conserve totems and Native cultural assets. Many of the poles that the CCC recovered from abandoned villages were found in an advanced state deterioration, which made conservation difficult. While restoration was the preferred approach, the CCC often opted for recarving, or partial recarving, if the pole could not be salvaged. The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The master carver at Saxman was Charlie Brown.
The photographic material published here by the Living New Deal was provided by courtesy of Linn A. Forrest (1905-1986), a practicing architect who photographed the totem poles at the time of their restoration, between 1939 and 1941. Forrest oversaw the joint program of the Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps to recruit Alaska native carvers in the restoration and recarving of totem poles throughout Southeast Alaska. Employed by the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon, Forrest transferred to Juneau, Alaska in 1937, where he undertook the totem restoration as one of his first projects. Under his supervision, indigenous carvers preserved and restored 103 totem poles and three Tlingit and Haida community houses. Forrest documented the restoration process and maintained notes and a photo record of a significant portion of the work. He used a Leica camera designed for the then new Kodachrome 35mm color slide format.
Garfield, Viola and Linn Forrest, 1961, The Wolf and the Raven, Seattle: University of Washington Press, p. 13-56.
Larry Rakestraw, Totem Pole Restoration, Interview with Linn A. Forrest, August 1, 1971.
Saxman Totem Park, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1979, accessed June 28, 2017.
Project originally submitted by Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest) on August 28, 2017.
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