By News-Register staff • 

Installation of art completes First Federal’s transformation

Marcus Larson/News-Register##Geese fly east on Third Street in one of the Ben Dye sculptures installed next to the First Federal parking lot.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Geese fly east on Third Street in one of the Ben Dye sculptures installed next to the First Federal parking lot.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Another art piece includes words that describe the bank and its locations.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Another art piece includes words that describe the bank and its locations.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##A plaque near Third and Adams streets refers to Woodmen of the World. WOW’s Chapter 128 once had an insurance office at Second and Baker streets.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##A plaque near Third and Adams streets refers to Woodmen of the World. WOW’s Chapter 128 once had an insurance office at Second and Baker streets.

First Federal’s new parking lot in downtown McMinnville features two pieces of art at Third and Adams streets, one showing flying geese above the words “Welcome to Historic McMinnville.” The other is a two-panel vertical “word cloud” incorporating customer comments and the names of communities where the bank has locations. The artist is Ben Dye of Oregon City.

The works, next to the Third Street entrance to the lot, were installed Oct. 9, and culminate the bank’s 2021 construction project. First Federal’s new building and headquarters opened last month on the same parcel as the previous bank building, which was torn down and is now the site of the parking lot.

Between the two upright art pieces is a ground-level plaque that says “WOW 128 McMinnville.”

Local tip: the plaque and the word cloud are best viewed while on foot. In doing so, within a few blocks one can also take in other public outdoor art works, at the McMinnville Library, the city police and fire facilities, and along Third Street.

The WOW plaque is not an exclamation about the appearance of the bank’s new headquarters. Rather, it’s a reference to some much older headquarters: the building at Second and Baker streets that held the Woodmen of the World’s Chapter, or Camp, 128.

Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society is a not-for-profit, fraternal insurance program. Its Nebraska headquarters building was featured as the workplace of Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie “About Schmidt.” WOW may be best known, however, for the headstones it provided to deceased members; many of the monuments, which usually resemble tree trunks, can be seen in Yamhill County cemeteries.

The WOW headquarters later were replaced by a sporting goods store. Upstairs in that building, the Braids & Braves Square Dancing Club had its dance floor.
The store was torn down three decades ago and First Federal expanded its parking lot onto the space.

Another historic marker about WOW Camp 128, a McMinnville Beautification plaque from 1976, can be seen on the south side of Third Street near Evans Street in front of Mes Amies. Look for it at sidewalk level on the pedestal of what used to be a drinking fountain.

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