Vista House is a memorial, museum, and comfort station for travelers at Crown Point, Multnomah County, Oregon. Those who travelling the Historic Columbia River Highway can stop off at Vista House, as can those interested in discovering the history of the pioneers of Oregon.
The site itself is on the southern side of the Columbia River Gorge, 733 feet above the Columbia River. Crown Point Vista House was designed by Edgar M. Lazarus and took one year to construct, achieving completion in 1918. Run in a partnership between the not-for-profit organization Friends of Vista House and Oregon State Parks, Vista House contains a small gift store, observation deck, restrooms, exhibition hall, small museum, and espresso bar.
In 1974, Vista House was placed on the US National Register of Historic Places. With a budget of $12,000, the ever-expanding designs saw the grand total spent reaching $100,000. Strong winds and freeze-thaw cycles have ravaged the architecture over time, with several restoration events taking place to repair and restore the building over the years.
Permanent exhibits and attractions
Vista House is a point of interest to those walking the Historic Columbia River Highway, exploring the Columbia Gorge, or who simply wish to see its notable architecture. Vista House is designed in a German art nouveau style, with Tokeen Alaska marble found in the rotunda and the lower level wainscoting. The original roof had a matte glazed surface of green tiles and a copper crown, but since then has received a protective membrane coating. The exterior has been faced with light grey sandstone. These notable architectural features and the local materials used make Vista House a historic building. Volunteer guides may be available for tours on certain days.
Within the house, visitors can view the permanent educational exhibits in the exhibit hall just past the entrance to the building. A collection of interpretive boards line the walls, providing information about the history of the house and its architecture as well as geological points of interest in the gorge. Down the stairs to the lower level is a small walk-through museum with several permanent exhibits detailing the history of the gorge, photographs, informational placards and displays on early car travel, camping in the region, and a model fire engine collection. Additional amenities are marble-fitted public restrooms, which are often decorated with fresh flowers.
The Friends of Vista House Interpretive Store sells a selection of products and gifts that reflect the local area, the Columbia River Gorge, the state of Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest. The store has a choice of items for sale related to such things as fauna, flora, Northwest Native American culture, and products related to the Historic Columbia River Highway. This well-stocked store also has an espresso bar offering hot and cold drinks. There are optional donation boxes in the store as well as in other areas of Vista House. Inside there are a number of resting areas providing a place to sit down and take in the architecture. Whilst there are several sets of steps within the building, there is an elevator for those who want to access the upper areas more easily.
Outside Vista House, visitors can see the famous far-reaching views from a number of scenic viewing points. The observation deck also provides an opportunity to take in the sights, with the panoramic views enabling visitors to see the border between Oregon and Washington as well as the Columbia River and its gorge. Coin-operated viewers enable a more detailed view; these accept dimes.
The Friends of Vista House is a not-for-profit organization set up in 1982 to maintain and advocate Vista House. Funds for the upkeep and maintenance of the house are obtained through the membership scheme, corporate donations, and individual donations. Vista House hosts a singalong musical program for children on occasion as well as nearby family campfire sing-alongs. Hosted by rangers and involving members of the community as well as visitors, such events celebrate the natural surroundings as well as raise awareness of the history and significance of Vista House.
40700 Historic Columbia River Highway, Corbett, OR 97014, Phone: 503-695-2240