Megan Kehoe / The Bulletin

It was only a storage shed for timber, but when the Old Mill's Crane Shed was demolished in 2004 without proper permits or permission, the brick-colored building came to symbolize much more.

It became a symbol of Bend's past — one the city didn't want to leave forgotten in a heap of rubble.

In 2008, the Bend City Council approved a project to construct six Bend Area Transit bus stop shelters to commemorate the Crane Shed, an Old Mill building that was illegally torn down in 2004. Today, four bus shelters resembling the Crane Shed line Southwest Bond Street, and are used by Cascades East Transit.

The Crane Shed was built in the 1930s, and was used to store lumber during Bend's bustling timber mill days. After the property was purchased by Crown Investment Group, the building was demolished without a proper permit in 2004.

To many in the community at the time, the destruction of one of Bend's historical buildings was an outrage.

“The owners tore it down in the middle of the night,” said Bill Smith, who developed the Old Mill District through his company, William Smith Properties, Inc. “They stuck up their noses at the community, and that irritated a lot of people.”

The property owners were fined for destroying the building and paid $117,000 in fines and interest to the city. Bend decided to use the money to commemorate the shed. Brad Emerson, special projects director for Bend's public works department and manager of the bus shelter project, said the city had just started fixed-route transit service at the time, and believed bus shelters commemorating the Crane Shed would be a practical way to use the money.

Out of seven proposals, the city decided on one by Yankee Design & Building. The proposed design called for the construction of six bus shelters that would resemble the Crane Shed and use some of the materials from the demolished historical building as decorative structural elements.

Emerson said that after some difficulty with the contractor during the construction process, the number of shelters had to be reduced from six to four to stay within the designated budget.

Partway through construction, Emerson said, Yankee Design & Building went under and had to abandon its efforts, leaving behind half-completed structures.

The city ended up using its own facilities to finish the shelters. Because of the disjointed construction efforts, Emerson said he does not believe any pieces of the original Crane Shed building were used in the bus shelters, as the initial plan called for.

“Some of the materials were intended to be included,” Emerson said in an e-mail. “However, based on how and when he (the contractor) left town, I'm inclined to think they weren't — unless some of the lumber came from the structure.”

Though it's difficult to tell what happened to the demolished shed materials, Smith said most likely all the remains of the Crane Shed were hauled away in dump trucks.

Despite setbacks, the city completed the bus shelters in 2009, Emerson said. They were operated first by Bend Area Transit and then, when BAT was taken over by the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council in 2010, by Cascades East Transit.

Though the shelters may not contain any of the Crane Shed's actual materials, they do represent its spirit. A white, curved roof provides covering for the shelters, echoing the shape of the Crane Shed's top, and buttresses support the shelters just as they did for the original building.

The outside of the shelters are also painted an earthy, brick-colored shade to resemble the shed. A memorial plaque sits above the benches in each of the shelters, explaining to bus customers the history behind the demolished Crane Shed.

According to information provided by CET, on average, the four Crane Shed bus stops each see between 50 and 100 CET bus riders every week.

Smith said he thinks the shelters do a good job of commemorating the old building, the significance of which only came to light once the landscape of Bend's Old Mill District started changing.

“The building wasn't much of anything until it was one of the last big mill buildings left,” Smith said.

Following up on Central Oregon's most interesting stories, even if they've been out of the headlines for a while. Email ideas to news@bendbulletin.com . To follow the series, visit www.bendbulletin.com/updates.

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