The Astoria Column is a tower located in Astoria, Oregon. Built in 1926 and financed by Vincent Astor and the Great Northern Railway, the column is one of 12 historic markers built between Astoria and St. Paul, Minnesota. The column is situated on Coxcomb Hill above the mouth of the Columbian River. Composed of steel and concrete, this structure can be found within a 30-acre city park. The tower measures 125 feet tall and includes an observation deck at the top, which can be reached by climbing the 164 steps of a crafted spiral staircase. The Astoria Column was modelled after the Place Vendome Column in Paris and the Trajan Column in Rome, upon which it is based. There have been several restorations and extensions over the years, with the murals on the column being refurbished in 1995, while in 2004 a granite plaza was added. In May 1974 the column was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Things to do and see
The murals that decorate the column were painted by Attilio Pusterla and Electus D. Litchfield. Created using a sgraffito technique, which is an Italian Renaissance form of art, the murals display 14 events of historical significance concentrating on the prehistory of Oregon. The main focus is on Astoria’s place in Captain Gray’s discovery of the Columbia River in 1792, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the arrival of the merchant ship Tonquin, events that contributed to the foundation of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and areas of Montana and Wyoming. Visitors of all ages travel to the column to view the historic murals, study the artistic techniques, and learn about the early history of Oregon.
After visitors have climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the column, they can take in the view on the observation deck. This space is 110 feet high and framed by a metal fence. The deck allows visitors to take in expansive views of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, the Columbia River, Washington, Astoria, and the Pacific Ocean with the height appearing more extreme than it actually measures due to the undulations of the hills below. Further amenities within the area are public restrooms, picnic tables, and benches. There is limited parking for visitors coming by car. There are a number of telescopes located around the base of the column, which enable an unobstructed view of Saddle Mountain and Young’s Bay. Within the 30-acre park in which the column is situated, there is access to the 1-mile Cathedral Tree Trail, which heads through Cape Meares State Park, passing trees and wildlife, including a famous ancient Sitka spruce known as the Octopus Tree. A short distance further to the Oregon Coast lies the Cape Meares Lighthouse.
Visitors to the column will also get to view the spiral staircase, which had to be replaced in 2007. By 2009, the stairs had been redesigned and crafted by architects Hennebery-Eddy and were airlifted into place. The stairs are an additional attraction when visiting the area as they are positioned on the interior of the dome, at the top of which lies the state seal of Oregon. There is the Astoria Column Gift Shop located on the grounds, which sells local candy, books, sweatshirts, tees, and balsa wood gliders, which can be thrown from the top of the column or from the surrounding hills. Visitors can view the plaque situated near the column, which commemorates the Community Antenna Television, a pioneering system built by Leroy E. Parsons, who was local to the area. The system involved twin lead transmission wires and redistributed the KRSC-TV (KING-TV) signal in Seattle, Washington, to homes.
Ongoing programs and events
Since its establishment in 1988, the non-profit organization, Friends of Astoria Column, has organized special events throughout the year for public enjoyment and fundraising purposes. Dedicated to public education, preservation, and the stewardship of the Astoria Column, they organize charity events, musical performances, special activities for seniors and children, and even athletic endeavors such as yoga classes each year. School trips also visit the column often for field trips.
1 Coxcomb Dr, Astoria, OR 97103, Phone: 503-325-2963