Population in 1990: 10,069
Housing Units in 1990: 4,631
Latitude/Longitude: 46°11’17”N 123°49’48”W
Elevation: 18 feet
Average precipitation: 75 inches per year
Astoria, Oregon, located south of the Columbia River as it flows into the Pacific Ocean, is the county seat of Clatsop County. The local economy is based on fishing, logging and tourism, as well as being supported in part by the local Coast Guard Station. The downtown area, now standing on fill, was originally built on pilings over the river. Contrary to myth, shanghai tunnels did not exist in Astoria, though the practice of shanghaiing was not unknown in Astoria’s rough early history. Astoria is also the site of the Astoria-Megler bridge, the world’s longest 3-span truss bridge and the final section of Highway 101 to be completed in 1964.
Each year on or around summer solstice Astoria celebrates its Scandinavian heritage with a Midsummer Festival. In August, residents commemorate their maritime past and present with the Regatta Festival. Astoria boasts the highest number per capita and the second highest absolute number (second only to San Francisco) of Victorian houses of cities in the United States; many of these homes are on the National Register of Historic Places. Astoria maintains a sister city relationship with Waldorf, Germany, birthplace of John Jacob Astor.
- First white/non-Hispanic settlement in the United States west of the Mississippi, 1811.
- First U.S. post office west of the Rockies, 1847.
- First U.S. Customs house on west coast, 1849.
- Home to Oregon’s first white woman, English bar maid, Jane Barnes.
- Birthplace of Ranald McDonald, first English teacher in Japan.
- Astor Column – the world’s largest reinforced concrete monument with an sgrafitto mural. Climb the 164 steps to the top.
- Columbia River Maritime Museum – the premier maritime museum on the West Coast.
- The Light Ship Columbia – tour a decommissioned Coast Guard lightship which formerly marked the mouth of the Columbia River.
- Flavel House – Victorian era gentility, a step back in time.
- Clatsop County Heritage Museum – heritage and history in a neo-classical building, the former Astoria City Hall.
- Uppertown Firefighters Museum – fun for the kiddies and adults, too.
Commercial sites of interest:
(please note that the following commercial establishments may or may not still be in business, depending on how far in the future you, dear reader, are reading this)
- Ship Inn – the most authentic English style fish and chips this side of the Atlantic.
- Josephson’s Smokehouse – delicious smoked salmon and other seafood products, made the old-fashioned Scandinavian way.
- Shallon Winery – fruit and other novelty wines; definitely not what Aunt May made in her basement.
- Custard King – home-made ice cream in more flavors than you can imagine.
Area sites of historical interest:
- Fort Clatsop – National memorial, featuring a replica of the fort inhabited by Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery during the winter of 1805-06
- Fort Stevens – a Civil War/War between the States era fortification; actively guarded the West Coast during WWII; the only continental U.S. site shelled by the Japanese
- Peter Iredale – an English sailing vessel run aground on the beach at Fort Stevens during a storm in 1906; its remains are still visible.
Astoria’s history begins in 1811 with the establishment of Fort Astoria by John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company, although the area had been previously explored in 1792 by Captain Robert Gray and in 1805-06 by the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The fort changed hands between the British and Americans during the War of 1812. Methodist missionaries followed in 1840.
The little settlement grew into a bustling port and the town gained a reputation for being a “wide open” and corrupt town, second only to San Francisco in sin and moral decadence. Immigrants came from Finland, Scandinavia and China, adding to the area’s culture mix as well as to its economy. Salmon canneries, forest and shipping industries turned the area into the liveliest boom town between Seattle and San Francisco. By the first quarter of the 20th century, Astoria’s population swelled to over 30,000; by the end of the 20th century the population had dwindled to fewer than 10,000.
Facts checked: Clatsop County Reference Information http://www.clatsop.com