Astoria c 2

Astoria column Photos by Andrew Hall     

The Astoria Bridge & Column

The 4.2 mile long Astoria Bridge opened in 1966. It is the longest continuous truss span bridge in the world. It had a $1.50 toll until 1994, when the bridge was paid for and the toll was removed. The bridge has more than 200 feet of clearance on the Oregon side so the huge ships can pass beneath it in the Columbia River shipping channel. It is 150 feet more to the top of the span. It has been featured in several car and truck commercials and the 1985 movie ‘Short Circuit’ featured the bridge.

One morning every October, traffic is stopped and you can run or walk across the bridge during the Great Columbia Crossing. More than 2,000 walkers and runners participate.  Friday and Saturday before the run the Silver Salmon Celebration takes place at the West Mooring Basin. This event features fresh salmon direct from the fishing boats, a salmon barbecue, food and craft booths, live entertainment, and a salmon cookbook.

Under the bridge is Maritime Memorial Park, dedicated to the memories of local people who were involved in the maritime industry. It also honors those members of the U.S. Coast Guard who lost their lives while serving here on the Columbia River.

The small boats seen on the river may be sports fishing for salmon or sturgeon. The salmon are not at historic highs or lows, but they are still an important staple in the diet of Oregon and Washington residents.  To keep a sturgeon, it must be at least 42 inches long and not more than 60 inches. Everything else outside those limits is thrown back in the river.  The longer ones are needed for the production of the future caviar growers.  The smaller ones are returned for another day.

Just like Seaside, Gearhart, Warrenton and Cannon Beach, Astoria prides itself as a beach community. The difference is that Astoria’s beach is tiny.  Don’t blink as you go by, you’ll miss it!

The pile of rubble in the water off shore is a cold storage plant that burned down in the early ‘90s. There is a legal dispute about ownership, and a dispute about who will clean it up. To the south is the site of the first electric plant in the area, dating to 1885. It was operated by the Trullinger Family. Customers paid $16 per lamp a month.

The Astoria Column was built in 1926 to commemorate the westward sweep of manifest destiny, the Corps of Discovery and human migration. Designed by the New York architect, Electus Litchfield, the monument is patterned after Trajan’s Column, which is in Rome (built 114 AD).  It is the only large memorial of reinforced concrete finished with a pictorial frieze (freeze) in sgrafitto (‘g’ sounds like ‘k’) work. This technique makes it unique in the world.

Ralph Budd, President of Great Northern Railway, and the John Jacob Astor family financially supported building of the Astoria Column. The Column’s 14, 25-foot-long scenes represent the history of white settlers in chronological order, with the earliest event at the bottom. The ambitious visitor can climb the 164 steps to the top of the Column and get a spectacular, 360-degree view, and fly a balsa wood plane. The Column cost $27,000 to build in 1926 and $1,500,000 to restore a few years ago.  Generous families, like the Schnitzer Steel heirs, paid for much of the restoration.

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