The Fremont Troll found its home under Seattle's Aurora Bridge decades ago, after a period in which "development was out of control." Sound familiar?

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This Halloween, the Fremont Troll, one of our city’s beloved public art installations, turns 27 years young.

In honor of its years of service to our community, we thought it’d be fun to dive into our archives for more information on its beginnings. What we found were interesting tidbits on its origins and even sentiments that feel, uh, somewhat familiar today.

Our earliest story on the troll is from Sept. 30, 1990, previewing the sculpture’s construction. Fremont residents voted from among numerous proposals to create the troll, using funding from the city’s Neighborhood Matching Fund. As one neighborhood activist said, “Seattle could use a little sense of humor.”

The choice of the troll, says the story’s writer, Robert T. Nelson, “serves as a metaphor for what that area has gone through in recent years. Legend has it that trolls live under bridges to escape traffic and development. Those are both problems Fremont has had to face.”

The story continues: “‘We think Fremont changed too fast in the 1980s,’ says Scott Dulin, a member of the Fremont Neighborhood Council. ‘Development was out of control. Much of that has changed. We don’t feel under siege anymore. We just want to keep this a good place for families and for small businesses.'”

A subsequent story, published Dec. 10, 1990, delves into more of the mechanics of the sculpture, the brainchild of Seattle architect-artists Will Martin and Ross Whitehead, plus Steve Badanes and Donna Walter of the Jersey Devils, a traveling art group.

“‘We used 80 sacks of cement and 7 yards of sand on the upper structure of the troll, including the skin and hair, and, I believe, two yards of concrete for the foundation,’ Whitehead said.”

The Volkswagen Beetle crushed in the troll’s left hand is a real car that contained the project’s time capsule — holding, among other things, a bust of Elvis. The bust was stolen less than four months after the sculpture’s installation, and the car was then filled with concrete to counter future vandalism.

The story concludes with some food for thought on why the neighborhood would choose such a strange piece of art: “‘I think the Fremont District is really old and unique,’ [Elaine] Jones said. ‘It’s different from Bellevue, and I think the art work should be different.'”

Amen to that.


This story was corrected on Oct. 31, 2017 to say that the troll was paid for using the city’s Neighborhood Matching Fund.