Artist wants to loan Raccoon Lodge to city

Application must be approved by Port Townsend Arts Commission

PORT TOWNSEND — The artist behind the installation known as the Raccoon Lodge on Clay Street in Port Townsend hopes the structure will remain for at least another year on loan to the city as an art piece.

Artist Kevin Mason, 75, said Friday that on Thursday he’d sent a letter to the city opting to loan the piece to the city for at least a year or two, at which point he would decide what to do with the lodge.

“Perhaps I could even move it, relocate it on to my property,” Mason said.

The Raccoon Lodge is a house-like structure built on the stump of what was once the largest Monterey Cypress tree in the state which straddles the property line between Mason’s home and his neighbors. The tree came down in 2018 and Mason said he began work on the structure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Controversy began in October, when city inspectors told Mason that because the stump runs up against the sidewalk on Clay Street it falls within the public right of way and must follow city code or come down.

Following an outpouring of community support for Mason and the lodge, city officials began working with Mason to find a way the structure could remain.

Most of the tree falls on the neighbor’s property and Mason said Friday he submitted the application with the approval of the neighbors who were in favor of loaning the piece to the city so that it can be designated as a public art piece.

“If it satisfies my neighbors, I defer to my neighbors,” Mason said. “I like my neighbors, they are my friends. If that’s what they’ve chosen, I’m going to stand by my neighbors. I would like to just keep it and be able to improve on it.”

City officials had expressed concern about the how the structure would fare in the area’s high wind events as the stump was known to have portions of rotted wood.

A professional carpenter, Mason has defended the structural integrity of the lodge and said Friday his application included a certified engineer’s report affirming the structure’s safety.

But even once the structure was in compliance with building codes, the city requires that art pieces in the public right of way must be insured either by the city itself or a private organization.

Emma Bolin, director of Planning and Community Development, said Friday said the city had received Mason’s letter. She declined to comment further now.

“Staff hasn’t yet had the chance to review it and out of respect for the property owners, we wish to have time to review in detail prior to commenting further,” Bolin said.

The city sent a list of potential options for the structure in November and, after an extension, gave until Jan. 27 for Mason to state in writing how he wanted to proceed.

According to the letter sent to the city Thursday, Mason chose the option that would loan the piece to the city for at least a year.

According to city code, public arts pieces must be approved by the Arts Commission. Once approved, the city manager could decide to accept the piece on loan for one year or the Port Townsend City Council could vote to accept the piece for two years. Under the agreement the city would insure the piece for the duration of the loan.

Mason’s letter also requested that the Arts Commission approve the project before moving forward with the building permit application process. The letter states that were the commission to reject the piece, the work would have to be removed and then no permits would be necessary.

Once the loan was finished, Mason said he might try to move the structure off the tree stump and onto his own property where it would be subject to less regulation. Mason said he has plans for expanding the structure, and would like to put a small roof over the lodge.

Mason has repeatedly expressed frustration with the city and has said he simply wanted to create an art piece for the public’s enjoyment but said Friday we was thankful officials found a way to work with him.

“I am grateful that the city is at least allowing me the option to keep it for another year,” Mason said. “And I hope that (the application) is approved because at least that would give some time to maybe bring it on to my property.”


Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at

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