Located in Astoria, Oregon, the Clatsop County Historical Society preserves the social and cultural history of the Clatsop County area through four museum facilities and an extensive archival collection of the area’s civic documents, photographs, and biographical holdings. Though the Columbia River area of the Pacific Northwest had long been home to the Clatsop, Chinook, and Kathlamet indigenous tribes, the history of European occupation of the area dates back to the 1792 expeditions of Robert Gray and the subsequent 1805 surveys of Captains Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery.
Throughout the early 19th century, the Columbia River became a popular route for fur traders and a popular destination for pioneer settlers looking for farmland. In 1854, the city of Astoria, the oldest settlement in the state, was chosen as the area’s county seat, and in the 1860s, salmon canning became the area’s primary source of industry, bringing an influx of new residents as workers at local cannery companies and invigorating the area’s economy. During World War II, the United States Army base Fort Stevens, located at the Columbia River’s Pacific Ocean terminus, became the only continental United States base attacked by enemy forces after a Japanese submarine attack on June 21, 1942. Today, the area’s industry is divided between manufacturing, trade, and tourism, with more than 30% of the region allocated as part of state forest areas.
The Clatsop County Historical Society evolved out of the Oregon Pioneer Historical Society, which was formed in 1871. In 1921, the group was reorganized as the Clatsop County Historical Society, and a small museum installation was installed at the Clatsop County Courthouse. After World War II, the organization gained ownership of the historical Flavel House, transferring its archival collections to the location in 1952. In 1980, the former Astoria City Hall building was converted into a Heritage Museum for the Society, and in 1989, the society acquired the Uppertown Fire Station building. Other major Society projects include the restoration of Lewis and Clark’s historic Fort Clatsop replica and the redevelopment of the area’s original fur trading post site.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Clatsop County Historical Society owns and operates three distinct museum facilities, showcasing the social and cultural history of the Clatsop County area from its indigenous roots through its pioneer occupation. All museum facilities are housed in restored historic buildings and feature a variety of living history displays, exhibits, and archival collection materials. The Society also maintains a collection of more than 30,000 historic photographs, 20,000 civic documents, and 15,000 assorted artifacts and ephemera holdings and operates an Archives and Research Library, available to the public Tuesdays through Fridays during regular hours or by special appointment for students and researchers.
The Flavel House, located at the corner of 8th and Duane Streets, is operated as a living history museum by the Society, open for public tours and private event rentals. Considered one of the finest preserved examples of Queen Anne-style architecture in the Pacific Northwest, the 1886 home was the residence of Captain George Flavel, a bar pilot and businessman who was one of Astoria’s most prominent residents of the mid 19th century. After the house was donated to the city in 1934 by Flavel’s great-granddaughter, it narrowly evaded demolition several times before being acquired by the Society in 1995 for permanent preservation. The 11,600-square-foot home has been fully restored to its Victorian-era condition, featuring original Eastlake woodworking, hardwood fireplace mantels, and period-appropriate furnishings, including items originally owned by the Flavel family. Rooms on the home’s first, second, and attic floors are accessible as part of guided tours, and the home’s nearby Carriage House serves as a visitor center and museum store, showing a short orientation video and displaying additional exhibits about the home’s history.
The Society’s Heritage Museum is housed in Astoria’s former Old City Hall building, originally designed in 1904 by Portland architect Emil Schacht. Today, the building is home to galleries showcasing the museum’s permanent collections, including artifacts of the area’s indigenous tribes, such as 19th-century Clatsop and Chinook baskets and a preserved 1,000-year-old hunting tool. Exhibits also chronicle the history of the area’s logging, fishing, and canning industries, and an Emigrants Gallery recounts the stories of the area’s diverse ethnic group settlers. At the Society’s Uppertown Firefighters Museum, a large collection of historic firefighting equipment is showcased, including horsedrawn wagons from the 19th century.
Ongoing Programs and Events
The Society’s facilities may be rented for private special events upon request, including the grounds of the Flavel House, which may be used for weddings, reunions, and corporate events. Public special events offered include a Holiday Tea and Plum Pudding dinner and an Old-Fashioned Christmas event at the Flavel House. Rotating temporary exhibits at the Heritage Museum are also showcased, with opening receptions offered.
714 Exchange St, Astoria, OR 97103, Phone: 503-325-2203