Neighbors plan new gate for Seward Park

Two concrete pads, about 8 inches tall, lie partially obscured by moss, ferns and a clump of trees near the entrance to Seward Park.Just looking at them, you can’t tell that for half a century, they supported a widely recognized and cherished landmark — one that a growing group of supporters is working to replace.

It was here that a 26-foot-tall wooden Japanese-style torii gate stood from 1935 until 1986, when it was taken down due to rot and decay.The gate had been a gift to the city from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce for the 1934 Potlatch celebration, the predecessor of Seafair. It was first displayed downtown, and moved to Seward Park the following year.

Torii gates, ubiquitous in Japan, typically consist of two tall support posts or columns, topped by two crosspieces, with the ends of the upper piece flared upward.Often seen at Shinto shrines, they are said to suggest the passage from the profane to the sacred, from the physical to the spiritual.The campaign to build a new torii is led by a group called Friends of Seward Park, but its president, Paul Talbert, said the dream can’t be achieved without broad support.

The idea of replacing the gate had been talked about for years, but gained traction at the 2011 celebration of Seward Park’s centennial.A series of community meetings was held this year, and a $19,000 matching-fund grant helped generate a design for the new torii by the architectural firm Murase Associates.

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