Juneau man gives tower a piece of the rock

Posted: Thursday, September 06, 2001

It took local community volunteer Michael Orelove 2 inches of correspondence to achieve his goal, but a piece of Alaska granite is now firmly embedded in Chicago's Tribune Tower.

On a visit to the Windy City in 1999, Orelove, a retired state worker, noticed that a brochure for the tower said it contained geologic or historic specimens from around the world and "all 50 states except Alaska."

He took that as a challenge.

Why did chunks of Egypt's Great Pyramids, Greece's Parthenon and Texas' Alamo rate, if the Last Frontier didn't? So he began a campaign of insistent correspondence.

"We got a stone from the top of Mount McKinley to downtown Chicago," Orelove said.

The chunk of granite originally was collected by an expedition in the 1950s as a research specimen, and turned over to Orelove after considerable negotiation by Denali National Park and Preserve, home of the nation's tallest mountain.

The rock is about the length of a dollar bill and the height of a hot dog bun, and has been mounted vertically in a spot where an original building block of the tower had disintegrated.

It is embedded about 12 feet up, which might be described as a "come-down-ance" from its original altitude of 20,320 feet but still an honored spot in the tower's display, which appears both inside and outside the structure.

Orelove had to create his own ceremony for the Aug. 18 embedding.

The program began at noon with "gathering and milling around" that included his niece Eden, 18, and his nephew Abel, 21, as well as their father, Joel, and Orelove's sister, Merle Orelove of California a former Juneau resident.

Following the milling and the ringing of a bell, Michael Orelove read a proclamation he penned himself for Gov. Tony Knowles' signature.

"It was a really crazy experience," said Eden Orelove, who read the proclamation addressed "to the citizens of Chicago and the world." Michael Orelove concluded the ceremony with a rough blast on a bugle.

"I thought it was neat to have all of us gathered there. People walked up to us off the street wondering what we were doing, and I think we did a good job of delivering our message 'to the world,' " Eden Orelove said.

Michael Orelove is relishing the fact that he is forcing the Tribune Tower to reprint the brochure that guides people to its more than 120 famous stones. He's pleased he pulled off in the same summer both the Alaska rock project and a dockside community sundial, painted on concrete near the lower Mount Roberts Tramway terminal.

"I am going to start a few (more projects)," he said. "I have a couple in the wings but I don't want to say what they are. Let people wonder."


Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.

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