Seal Rock landmark to be replaced

A smaller, temporary dragon sculpture stands guard at the Hauser Gallery in Seal Rock until a new, larger sculpture is created to replace the original metalwork, which fell victim to the coastal environment. (Photo by Michael Heinbach) The dragon sculpture in Seal Rock, known as Roary, has long been a local landmark, but the sculpture is no more. The dragon succumbed to the harsh coastal elements, collapsing last weekend. Plans are in the works to create Roary’s replacement.

If all goes as planned, a photogenic new landmark will rise in Seal Rock in the near future.

The rusty dragon on the east side of U.S. Highway 101 at the Hauser Gallery was already slated to be replaced by a more weather-worthy creature when it collapsed into a pile of dust last Sunday. Until a new one is built, the well-known dragon sculpture — its name was Roary — has been replaced by a much smaller painted dragon. The temporary fix previously sat on the gallery porch.

Vincent Gilbert of Yachats will be guiding the replacement dragon project from start to finish for Rose Estes, owner of Roary and the Hauser Gallery behind it. The idea for the new sculpture comes from Estes, who hopes to have it in place by summer.

“We think this will be a major art project for the coast,” Gilbert said. “The weather had taken its toll on the dragon, and we’re putting together a community art project that’s in the planning stages now. The replacement sculpture will be designed to be weather and wind resistant.”

The creature will be 10 feet tall, about a foot taller than the old one, and is expected to have a smoke machine inside, along with some type of flaming effect, Gilbert said.

The new dragon will be made up of several parts and will be assembled on site. How quickly that will happen will be dependent on whether and how rapidly work teams can be organized.

Gilbert and Estes said the harsh coastal climate is responsible for Roary’s demise. “Battleships would not survive Seal Rock,” Gilbert said, claiming the salt content of the air is the most corrosive in the world. 

Gilbert, with a background in engineering and software consulting, said he worked in the film industry creating props and came to Yachats about 15 years ago. Of the climate, he said, “This is an inhospitable environment, so the new sculpture has to be resistant to UV light in addition to salt and wind.” Putting it mildly, he added, “It poses some engineering challenges.”

To bring the idea to fruition, Gilbert has made contact with Oregon Coast Community College, where he hopes students in one of its art classes might be interested in helping out. He envisions five teams of three or four people each to work on the project, and will be advertising for sculptors who want to participate.

“We’re looking to assemble a group of volunteer sculptors interested in working on the project who might be interested in techniques which could be further applied to pieces designed for the rigors of coastal display,” Gilbert explained.

“We don’t need skilled artisans, just extra hands. Not everyone can say that they built a dragon,” Estes added.

When Estes brought Roary to his highway location a few years ago as a way to advertise the gallery, it immediately became a photo attraction. “People stopped 10 or 20 times a day for a photo with the dragon,” Gilbert said.

Estes said seeing the dragon fall apart was like watching a family pet die, inch by inch, with every new storm causing the loss of another scale or two. “Vince had to tie a rope to his remains, hitch it to the Subaru and drag it off like a dead cow,” she said. “My heart is broken; it was too much like putting a beloved dog or cat down.”

Estes met gallery owner Gary Hauser online after reading an article about him in Ornament magazine in 2000. They corresponded by email prolifically. “We emailed back and forth, day and night, for four months,” she said. And in 2002, she moved from Wisconsin to join him at the Oregon coast. They later married at the Little Log Church in Yachats.

Hauser became ill in 2006, and Estes operated his gallery until his death in 2011. “At that point, I decided not to close the gallery — he had no children, and the gallery is sort of his legacy,” she recalled. “I had no idea what I was doing, but when I would buy inventory, he would tell me to follow my passion. Now the gallery is sort of a picture of who I am. I looked around and saw it was me and I was it!”

Like the eclectic objects in the gallery — ranging from polished local agates to a 10th century carving of Buddha on his cobra throne from a temple in southern India — Estes has a varied background. She worked as a journalist in Texas before moving with her previous husband to Lake Geneva, Wis., where he was a fourth-generation candy maker.

The inventors of the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons lived nearby, and in 1977, Estes became their 13th employee, with the job of trying to explain Dungeons and Dragons to the general public. Then she took a leave of absence to literally join the circus, traveling the country until one day, in an Iowa Laundromat, she came across a book in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series.

“It occurred to me that was a perfect way to explain (Dungeons and Dragons), so I went back home,” she said, writing a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book in longhand that was picked up by Random House, distributor of the game at the time. Since then, she has written a total of 38 books, 28 of them involving dragons.

She said her books, which are multiple choice interactive stories, are not the Dungeons and Dragons game books. “I did use their monsters and other fantastical beings like dwarves, elves, trolls, magic users, etc., but I had no hand in creating the basic D & D books themselves,” she added.

In spite of Estes’ tie to dragons in her writing, the arrival of Roary had nothing to do with Dungeons and Dragons or her books. She was having trouble keeping the gallery open when she saw an advertisement on Facebook for a dragon sculpture and drove to its location on Highway 34 to get it, hauling it back to Seal Rock with a long line of cars behind her.

“It was my intention to sell the dragon for the owners because I couldn’t afford to buy it myself,” she explained. “But when we stopped, the cars behind us pulled into the parking lot and everyone got out to take pictures. By the time we opened the next morning, the parking lot was full, and the business had changed on a dime.

“I realized I needed to keep the dragon, and so I eventually bought him,” she said. “I’m astounded by its stopping power. The locals are very fond of Roary and have helped put him back up after he blows over. I love hearing him referred to as a local landmark.

“I hope the new guy will become an attraction and bring people to Seal Rock to help all of us,” she said of Roary’s planned replacement. “I want people to think of coming to Seal Rock to see the dragons — more are planned — and stay to spend money in our shops. (The dragons) will make Seal Rock more of a destination than just another tourist town.”

The Hauser Gallery is located at 12085 U.S. Highway 101 and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those interested in learning more about the teams that will be building Roary’s successor may call Estes at 541-270-8515. Estes plans a Name the Dragon contest when the new sculpture is in place.

A smaller, temporary dragon sculpture stands guard at the Hauser Gallery in Seal Rock until a new, larger sculpture is created to replace the original metalwork, which fell victim to the coastal environment. (Photo by Michael Heinbach) The dragon sculpture in Seal Rock, known as Roary, has long been a local landmark, but the sculpture is no more. The dragon succumbed to the harsh coastal elements, collapsing last weekend. Plans are in the works to create Roary’s replacement.

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