For more than 90 years, a huge white swastika has loomed over a downtown warehouse district and no one seemed to pay much attention.
“I’ve never noticed it, and I drive by there damn near every day,” said Gene Schutzler, who has worked at the machine shop around the corner for nearly four decades.
The swastika, put on the side of the red brick building around the turn of the century as the logo of the Portland Biscuit Co., later became an emblem of hatred during the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and ‘40s.
The company later sold out to Nabisco, and in about 1950 the building was bought and turned into a parking garage. All this time, even during World War II, the swastika remained.
It wasn’t until this year that a woman walking out the back door of the popular Powell’s Books store nearby spotted the swastika and e-mailed a columnist at The Oregonian to complain.
“I wondered why it was there,” Molly McGuire wrote the newspaper. “I wondered why it was STILL there.”
It won’t be there for much longer. The building was purchased last fall by Bob Gerding, a Portland developer, and Dan Wieden, who’s half of the successful advertising company Wieden and Kennedy. The agency will use the space for employee parking.
Dennis Wilde, project manager of the garage renovation, said the swastika will either be painted over or stripped off sometime during the next month.
An ancient symbol, the swastika has been found on Greek coins, on Scandinavian artifacts and in the catacombs of early Christians. The swastika was used by early American Indians as a symbol of infinity and can be found on pottery and rugs.