Saturday, August 20, 2022
Astoria is a port city and the seat of Clatsop County Oregon. Founded in 1811, Astoria is the oldest city in the state of Oregon and was the first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.
The county is the northwest corner of Oregon, and Astoria is located on the south shore of the Columbia River, where the river flows into the Pacific Ocean. The city is named for John Jacob Astor, an investor and entrepreneur from New York City, whose American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria at the site and established a monopoly in the fur trade in the early nineteenth century. Astoria was incorporated on October 20, 1876.
During archeological excavations in Astoria and Fort Clatsop in 2012, trading items from American settlers with Native Americans were found, including Austrian glass beads and falconry bells. The present area of Astoria belonged to a large, prehistoric Native American trade system of the Columbia Plateau.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1805–1806 at Fort Clatsop, a small log structure southwest of modern-day Astoria. The expedition had hoped a ship would come by that could take them back east, but instead they endured a torturous winter of rain and cold. They later returned overland and by internal rivers, the way they had traveled west. Today the fort has been recreated and is part of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.
In 1811, British explorer David Thompson, the first person known to have navigated the entire length of the Columbia River, reached the partially constructed Fort Astoria near the mouth of the river. He arrived two months after the Pacific Fur Company’s ship, the Tonquin. The fort constructed by the Tonquin party established Astoria as a U.S., rather than a British, settlement and became a vital post for American exploration of the continent. It was later used as an American claim in the Oregon Boundary Dispute with European nations.
The Pacific Fur Company, a subsidiary of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, was created to begin fur trading in the Oregon Country. During the War of 1812, in 1813, the company’s officers sold its assets to their Canadian rivals, the North West Company. The fur trade would remain under British control until U.S. pioneers following the Oregon Trail began filtering into the town in the mid-1840s. The Treaty of 1818 established joint U.S. – British occupancy of the Oregon Country.
As the Oregon Territory grew and became increasingly more colonized by Americans, Astoria likewise grew as a port near the mouth of the great Columbia River that provided the easiest access to the interior. The first U.S. post office west of the Rocky Mountains was established in Astoria in 1847 and official state incorporation in 1876.
Astoria attracted a host of immigrants beginning in the late 19th century: Nordic settlers, primarily Swedes, Swedish speaking Finns and Chinese soon became larger parts of the population. The Nordic settlers mostly lived in Uniontown, near the present-day end of the Astoria–Megler Bridge, and took fishing jobs; the Chinese tended to do cannery work, and usually lived either downtown or in bunkhouses near the canneries. By the late 1800s, 22% of Astoria’s population was Chinese.
As the Pacific Salmon resource diminished, canneries were closed. The lumber industry likewise declined in the late 20th century. Astoria Plywood Mill, the city’s largest employer, closed in 1989. The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railroad discontinued service to Astoria in 1996, as Astoria did not provide a large enough market.
From 1921 to 1966, a ferry route across the Columbia connected Astoria with Pacific County, Washington. In 1966, the Astoria–Megler Bridge was opened. The bridge completed U.S. Route 101 and linked Astoria with Washington on the opposite shore of the Columbia, replacing the ferry service.
Today, tourism, Astoria’s growing art scene, and light manufacturing are the main economic activities of the city. Logging and fishing persist, but at a fraction of their former levels. Since 1982 it has been a port of call for cruise ships, after the city and port authority spent $10 million in pier improvements to accommodate these larger ships.
We enjoyed visiting funky downtown Astoria. It is claimed that the actor Clark Gable began his career at the Astoria Theatre in 1922. Visit the stately 11,600-square-foot Flavel House, with its two and a half stories, rear kitchen, butler’s pantry, four-story tower, attic and basement. This was the retirement home of Captain George Flavel, who had it built from 1884-1886. Today its a museum.
If in town be sure to visit the Astoria Column. The 125-foot (38 m)-tall column has a 164-step spiral staircase ascending to an observation deck at the top and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1974. The tower was built in 1926 with financing by the Great Northern Railway and Vincent Astor, the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, in commemoration of the city’s role in the family’s business history.
Patterned after the Trajan Column in Rome (and Place Vendôme Column in Paris), the Astoria Column was dedicated on July 22, 1926. The spiral sgraffito frieze on the exterior of the structure has a width of nearly seven feet (2.1 m) and a length of 525 feet. Painted by Electus Litchfield and Atilo Pusturla, the mural shows 14 significant events in the early history of Oregon, as well as 18 scenes from the history of the region, including Captain Gray’s discovery of the Columbia River in 1792 and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Fort Stevens was an American military installation that guarded the mouth of the Columbia River in the state of Oregon. Built near the end of the American Civil War, it was named for a slain Civil War general and former Washington Territory governor, Isaac I. Stevens. The fort was an active military reservation from 1863–1947. Now its a 4300 acre Oregon State Park. In 1906, the crew of the sailing ship Peter Iredale took refuge at Fort Stevens, after she ran aground on Clatsop Spit. The wreck is visible today, within the boundaries of Fort Stevens State Park.
The garrison of Fort Stevens during World War II included elements of two regiments, the 249th Coast Artillery (Oregon National Guard) and the 18th Coast Artillery of the Regular Army. The garrison came under attack in WWII when a Japanese submarine shelled the fort. The only damage created was the backstop of the ball diamond was destroyed.
Fort Stevens was decommissioned in 1947. All the armaments were removed and buildings were auctioned. The grounds were transferred to the Corps of Engineers, until finally being turned over to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department in 1975. The large state park boasts full hook up campsites, primitive and electrical sites, yurts, and deluxe cabins; most are pet friendly. There is a lake and and over nine miles of paved bicycle trails, fishing, a historic shipwreck, and underground tours of the military battery. Fort Stevens is a wonder state park!
Our campsite here at Lewis and Clark Golf and RV Park was wonderful. Nice and wide with shrubbery in between sites. Ours was a pull in site meaning we had a front row view of the golf course.
Tomorrow we’ll be pulling up stakes and head into the State of Washington. See you there!