Man creates 'wall of records' as he builds Douglas home

Project got a start when KTOO dumped its collection

Posted: Monday, April 04, 2005

Raindrops bead on the black vinyl wall outside the house C.A. Bowman is building on North Douglas Highway. He said he sees people slowing down to look at what he's done with about 1,500 long-playing records.

"All the Eagles I could find," he said. "I hate the Eagles."

Bowman, who hosts Cross Currents on radio station KTOO from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays and who began working there in 1978, said most of what he has put up is music he wouldn't listen to - "classical, jazz, bad rock."

What he calls his wall of records is not a comment on his taste in music, although he insists you won't see his Grateful Dead collection up there.

Bowman is celebrating a bygone era.

"It's a shrine to the LP," said Jeff Brown, co-program director at KTOO. He sees it in the American tradition of roadside attractions like giant dinosaurs or Wall Drug on more heavily traveled motorways.

"I've sided a number of buildings in this town," said Bowman, an experienced builder. But this would be his first record deal.

The idea was inspired by Brown's request in the 1990s for listeners' suggestions on what to do with old records.

"Vinyl resting place," Brown recalled. With compact discs becoming the medium for music, he was looking for people's ideas about what to do with their old records gathering dust.

Bowman said he recalled people talking about making vases or sculptures out of them.

The 12-inch records mostly came from the station, when it started throwing out records that even the volunteers didn't want.

The idea came before Bowman figured out how it could be done, he said. They aren't attached with any sort of glue or cement, and they aren't nailed in.

He slid them down columns formed with wood runners. He figures 50 records are in each of the 31 columns. An inch of foam sits behind the records.

"I've been trying to figure out how to build on this property since I moved in 12 years ago," he said.

The living quarters will be on the top floor, with a view across Gastineau Channel. The ground floor, on the other side of the records, will be a garage. On the inside wall of the garage, he plans to put up the record jackets.

He hasn't heard any criticism of the project, he said.

"My friends have thought I was crazy for years," he added.

If this idea doesn't catch on, it wouldn't be a first. He said he has unsuccessfully tried to get people to refer to Juneau residents as "Juneautians" instead of the more cumbersome "Juneauites."

Bowman, though, considers himself a resident of Douglas Island.

"I'm a Pacific Islander. I keep threatening to check that (U.S. Census) box," he said.

So far the biggest critic of his work may be the sun. Many of the records higher up already are changing shape.

"I was surprised how quickly they warped when the sun came out," he said.

Trees in front of the wall shelter the records from much of the sunlight, but the tree tops are cut to keep them out of the power lines.

"We'll see what the sun does when it starts swinging around for the summer," Bowman said. "I'm not done learning yet."

When the sun hits the records now, a sort of rainbow effect comes off the grooves, seen from the right angle. But if the warping gets too bad, he said he'll just have to cover them up with something traditional.

"It's an art project," Bowman said. "Art is a temporary thing."

Besides, he added, "I've got more records."

• Tony Carroll can be reached at

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