“What’s that thing on top of your building?” It is always the first question we are asked when someone first sees the Nasburg Building located in Coos Bay’s business district. And, without an explanation, few people would be able to guess what it is or the reasons behind it.
Local building designer Butch Schroeder was asked by Andy Nasburg and his partners in the late 1970s to design a building for the growing Nasburg Huggins Insurance. They wanted a unique design to capture the essence of the Pacific Northwest and our region’s industries and for the building to be made from native materials and supplies. The building was finished in 1981 and is an extraordinary reflection of our primary industries: Logging, sawmills, commercial fishing and maritime shipping.
“The thing on top” is a combination of pieces from the wood-products industry. The top piece is a fairlead from one of the first steel logging spar poles used in our area. It came from Weyerhaeuser’s first Berger square tube tower in Coos County. The blocks that hang down below it were used to tension the guy lines that held it up. According to one man who set chokers (wire cables used in logging) for the machine, many of the old timers said that the steel spar pole wouldn’t work—only a tree could do the job. Steel logging towers are state of the art today. The bell-shaped object underneath the fairlead is an upside down cyclone, used in many sawmills’ blower systems and other wood-working plants. Butch hung chain around the bottom that was used on log raft booms, “to fluff it up a bit”. The whole apparatus is sitting on top of a 40-foot section of a logging spar pole which, in turn, is used as the base of our circular stairway inside the building's main tower.
Our one-of-a-kind fireplace represents the commercial-fishing industry. It was made by splitting a navigational buoy in half. On top of the chimney, is a spire made out of a crankshaft from a 1923 Marmon automobile. It was used by a logger who worked at Dellwood on the Coos River. When the car quit working, he apparently abandoned it and Butch found the crankshaft and other parts in the brush. Under it are two log truck wheels and a brake drum from Haley and Haley Trucking. The ring around it is a piece from a broken band saw from Coos Head Timber Company.
Once inside the building you will see many items salvaged from local industries. And, you’ll find interesting historic photographs and local works of art, including Companions, a stunning oil painting of a whale and dolphin swimming together. The five-piece painting by world-famous local artist Don McMichael spans an area of curved interior wall and measures six feet tall by twenty feet wide.
The building is constructed mainly of local materials. The rock, inside and out, comes from the Kentuck Slough Quarry. The original cedar shakes for the roof were from Coos County and hand split by Bob Montgomery. They were replaced with a composite roof after 20 some years of service. The thick, red cedar slabs on the tower were sawn by Tucker’s Mill in Langlois. The interior woods are red cedar, Douglas fir and Western hemlock, all local products. The twelve columns that divide each work station in the office are Port Orford cedar logs from the Coos River area that have simply been peeled and then sealed.
Elmer Cuthbert, Bob Lobato, Del Jones, Brad Colton, Bob Sappington and Kent Wechter, the main craftsmen who worked for general contractor Don Thompson, enjoyed the challenge of working on this building. There were some tense moments, however, and some were lessened by comic relief. Butch provided the biggest laugh of all during the roofing stage. He was up on one of the circular roofs trying to show the carpenters exactly how he wanted a piece to fit. He lost his footing and slid down backwards into a mud puddle. After he shook himself off and went inside, three “wise guy” electricians (in honor of the upcoming Olympics) each flashed a card: 9.6, 9.7 and 9.4 as their ratings of Butch’s dive.
Please come see us for your insurance needs and a tour of our special building that is a little piece of Coos County history!
nasburg-huggins-info [at] leavitt [dot] com
375 South Fourth Street