Perched up on a hill overlooking a valley of trees is where you’ll find the noisy solitude where blacksmith Berkley Tack hammers away. He built the worksite at his Rainier home decades ago. In the morning he gets the fire going. Its heat is what fuels his creations as he beats and bends iron into precise shapes. “The best part is you quit the day feeling proud about what you’ve done,” Tack said.
Tack was recently hired by the Portland Water Bureau to recreate the historic wrought iron fence, tapered tower light posts, and decorative scrollwork surrounding the perimeter of Reservoirs 5 & 6 at Mount Tabor. Through ongoing conversations between Water Bureau staff and representatives from the Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association and the Friends of Mount Tabor Park, this project was identified as one of a handful of top priorities for repair.
The originals were crafted in the early 20th century. “The way they’re put together is very interesting,” Tack said. “It’s an honor and it’s humbling. I look at the work that was done and I really want to do the best I can to come up to that standard.” Tack started blacksmithing in the late 1970s. His initial interest blossomed into a lifelong career after heading to Germany to be taught by more polished blacksmiths. “We were hippie blacksmiths and, really, kind of wannabes, but we learned a lot in that first seminar,” Tack said. “Mostly what we learned is that we have a lot to learn.”
The evenly spaced towers surrounding Mount Tabor’s Reservoirs are what lend them their charm. Recreating them provided Tack with a real puzzle to solve. “They were done in an amazing way,” Tack said. “It’s important that it’s done right, that I leave a good legacy of that kind of work. I’m inspired by the work that was done.”
Following through on these repairs shows the Water Bureau taking care of our own legacy related to infrastructure and public trust. Project costs will be paid out of general funds set aside by City Council in previous years specifically for Mount Tabor Reservoir preservation. Tack will begin the installation and repair of the ironwork at Mount Tabor in September.