On April 25, 1935 the Oregon Capitol built in 1873 was destroyed by a fire that started in the basement.
The design for a new Capitol was a result of a nationwide competition. This design, by architects Francis Keally and George Jacoby from the New York firm of Trowbridge and Livington, was unanimously selected.
At the top of the 4-story building of modern Greek architecture, is a bronze statue. A gold leaf exterior was chosen for it's reflective qualities. This work has become known to Oregonians as the "Golden Pioneer", but this singular sculpture standing 22 feet tall was officially named the "Oregon Pioneer" by its creator, artist Ulric H. Ellerhusen. The Oregon Pioneer weighs eight and a half tons.
Ellerhusen created the Oregon Pioneer in his New Jersey studio. The sculptor had a large studio door built so the work could be rolled outside and he would be able to see firsthand how it looked in the sunlight. The Oregon Pioneer was shipped in 1938 through the Panama Canal then came to Salem on a railroad car and was brought to the Capitol on a flatbed truck.
The Golden Pioneer and the new Capitol were dedicated in 1938. The base for the statue is faced with white Vermont marble, the same material used to construct the Capitol. The Oregon Pioneer is enameled with gold leaf. It was re-gilded in 1958, and in 1984 by Portland gilders John Edwards and Roy Darby.
The year 2000 gilding was headed by Pete McKearnan and Lee Littlewood of Portland. They were trained by Edwards and Darby.