Historic Doors to Return In Gresham High Reconstruction

Photo shows Daniel Stevens, a Gresham High School alumni ('57) and art teacher, seated in his home, looking at newspaper clippings.

Daniel Stevens, a Gresham High School alumni (’57) and art teacher.

Gresham High School students in 2020 will have access to a state-of-the-art building. The new school will have technology unthinkable to previous generations.

However, the new building will also contain historic elements from its past. Thanks to a former art teacher, the new building will feature an iconic set of hand-wrought iron doors first installed over 80 years ago.

The doors were created installed in the late 1930s. They feature two faces sculpted with copper. The faces, one young and one elderly, represent the values of “youth” and “wisdom.”

Saved From the Scrapyard

The doors were almost thrown out in the early 1970s during renovation work.

Luckily, Daniel Stevens, a GHS alumnus (‘57) and former Gresham art teacher, was visiting the school the day the doors were taken down. Stevens spotted the doors sitting by a dumpster outside and asked if he could have them. He has kept them in a barn in his property in Boring for the past forty years.

Stevens says when he was a student, it was “tradition” for freshman to polish the doors. The chore provided Stevens plenty of time to study the ironwork detail.

“I didn’t know any of the history of the doors, but I remember really liking them,” Stevens said.

Daniel Stevens, a Gresham High School Alumni (’57) and former art teacher, has kept the doors for decades.

Historic Doors Wrought by Iconic Northwest Artist

Northwest artist O.B. Dawson designed the doors. His historic ironwork graces many cherished civic institutions across Oregon. Dawson supervised a team of over 115 artisans employed by Works Art Program. His handiwork is also on display at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon.

His team is most famous for the ironwork that graces Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge. The team designed the historic hotel’s front doors, thirty-foot tall weathervane, fireplace, and other fixtures.

Dawson learned his ironwork skills during his military service in France during World War I. A French blacksmith taught him how to make the wrought iron decorative gates. This would serve as the foundation for his work in Oregon.

Stevens, a long-time fan of O.B. Dawson’s work, is still fascinated by the technique used to create the GHS doors.

“The whole door is a puzzle,” explains Stevens, noting the complex detail on the GHS doors and the interlocking small pieces melded together. “There isn’t a single weld in these doors.”

The historic doors have carved faces, which represent the virtues of “youth” and “wisdom.”

New School, Historic Past

Stevens is pleased the doors will be a part of the renovation of Gresham High School. The November 2016 Gresham-Barlow School Bond is funding the improvements. 70% of the building will be rebuilt to meet modern safety standards and address chronic overcrowding. The Bond is funding safety and security improvements at every school in the district, major renovations at Gresham and Sam Barlow High Schools, and two replacement elementary schools – East Gresham Elementary and North Gresham Elementary.

The final location of the doors within the new campus is yet to be determined. The doors could be placed in the school’s new courtyard, the commons space, or the future Hall of Fame.

Wherever the district places the doors, the historic community treasure that celebrates the virtues of “youth” and “wisdom” will once again greet Gresham students for decades to come.