Whales will replace salmon near the Coupeville Wharf

A popular downtown Coupeville landmark carved by a venerable woodworker will soon become a part of history.

Coupeville woodworker Roger Purdue stands next to the salmon wheel he spent years carving in the 1990s. He designed the whale wheel that will be unveiled during the Penn Cove Water Festival May 14.

Coupeville woodworker Roger Purdue stands next to the salmon wheel he spent years carving in the 1990s. He designed the whale wheel that will be unveiled during the Penn Cove Water Festival May 14.

A popular downtown Coupeville landmark carved by a venerable woodworker will soon become a part of history.

The wooden salmon wheel, located near the entrance to the Coupeville Wharf on Front Street, will be moved and replaced by a carved whale wheel on May 14.

The salmon wheel, which Coupeville woodworker Roger Purdue carved over three years in the 1990s, was dedicated and placed in its current home in 1996.

Unfortunately, the ensuing 15 years have taken their toll on the wheel. The wood is warping and the paint is fading.

Purdue said he chose a salmon-themed wheel back then because of the fish’s connection to the Native American way of life and diet. Looking back, he said the wheel turned out to be a bigger job than he imagined because its surface area was so large. But he is grateful how it turned out.

“It just all seemed to fit together,” Purdue said.

Even though the wheel will no longer be outdoors, visitors will still be able to see it. The Island County Historical Society has a spot picked out in the museum located next to the Coupeville Wharf.

“It’s certainly a piece of history of Coupeville loved by tens of thousands of people,” said Rick Castellano, museum executive director. The wheel will help round out the museum’s Native American exhibit.

The salmon wheel has been popular with families as children take turns trying to spin the wheel. But Castellano said the wheel has served an important educational function as well. Thousands of grade school students have visited the museum and the wheel is used as part of a walking tour of Coupeville. The wheel helps tell a story of the salmon’s importance in Native American culture.

Noticing the condition of the salmon wheel, Purdue thought it might be time to make something new. However, he wanted to make sure he had complete agreement with people in the community. He said he contacted such people as Susan Berta, president of the Penn Cove Water Festival, and decided it would be best to move forward.

He said he is unable to carve wood anymore because of Parkinson’s disease. To lend a hand, a group of local woodworkers formed to complete the wheel. Those woodworkers are Dick Weber, Peter Wolff, Gordon Grant, Joseph Albert, Jim Short, Chris Eliassen and Phil Kempbell.

“I thought it was a good idea,” Purdue said of the new wheel, and thanked the efforts of Short and Weber in organizing the carving the wheel.

He decided on whales because he remembered the orca whales that used to be a visible fixture in Penn Cove years ago and still occasionally visit.

The new wheel will be unveiled near the Coupeville Wharf during a ceremony Saturday, May 14, 12:30 p.m. at the Penn Cove Water Festival, which is celebrating its 20th consecutive year.

 

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