Friday, July 18, 2014

The Astoria Column and a Giveaway

Nancy J. Farrier here. Please read through and leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.

The quaint coastal town of Astoria, Oregon is rich in beauty and history. Situated at the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria’s past included such great events as the Lewis and Clark expedition reaching the Pacific there.

View West From the Astoria Column
In the 1920’s, Ralph Budd, president of the Great Northern Railroad, had a pet project to put up monuments in various cities along the line. His last project, to be erected in Astoria, was originally planned to be a tall pole that would house a huge flag. However, when Budd learned of artist Attilio Pusterla and his famous sgraffito painting technique, he and his architect, Electus Litchfield, changed their design. They unveiled a plan to commemorate Astoria’s historic events, from its discovery to the arrival of the railroad, in pictures.

The townspeople agreed with Budd and Litchfield that Coxcomb Hill, at 600 ft. elevation, would be the best place for the proposed histogram. New York philanthopist, Vincent Astor, whose great-grandfather, John Jacob Astor, settled Astoria and began the Pacific Fur Company, contributed finances for the Astoria column. His family previously funded the purchase of Coxcomb Hill for the project.

Astoria Column
A.B. Guthrie and Company from Portland, began construction of the column in March of 1926. The column was patterned after the TrajanColumn in Rome. Within two months they were ready for the exterior artwork to be applied. Meanwhile, Pusterla had been working in his New York studio preparing the sketches and designs for the historical depictions. The column dedication was set for July 22nd, the final mural designs were finished on July 1st and Pusterla and his team began to apply the murals.

To do the artwork, a round wooden scaffolding was constructed. The scaffold dangled from the 110 ft. viewing platform and circled the column. Pusterla would take his drawings up on the scaffolding, apply a fresh base coat to the column side, put the drawing in place and then blow colored powder into the holes that outlined the figures. When he lifted the paper away, he could see the outlines of the drawing. He then applied the lighter plaster and added the shadows and outlines necessary. Pusterla demanded his work be perfect, often removing the previous days work when it didn’t meet his standards.

By the day of dedication, only three bands of the mural were completed. The three days of festivities weren’t postponed. 8,000 people showed up to see the histogram. Pusterla continued his work and completed the artwork in late October 1926.

Along with the artwork, there were text panels that circled the tower. The words below are the text starting from the bottom and going to the top. You can see the artwork up close here

BEFORE THE WHITE MAN CAME

ROBERT GRAY ENTERED IN COLUMBIA GREAT RIVER-MAY 11, 1792
FINDS AN INDIAN VILLAGE ON THE BANK OF THE RIVER.

LT. BROUGHTON NAMES MT. HOOD, OCT. 1792

CORPS OF DISCOVERY CROSSING THE MOUNTAINS, LEWIS AND CLARK

INDIANS GREET THE EXPLORERS

LEWIS AND CLARK REACH THE PACIFIC OCEAN

CORPS OF DISCOVERY BOILING SALT WATER FOR SALT-SEASIDE

FORT CLATSOP ESTABLISHED – DECEMBER 1805

INDIAN FISHING AND BOAT BUILDING INDUSTRY

ASTOR’S OVERLAND PARTY LEAVING ST. LOUIS

ASTOR’S SHIP “TONQUIN” SAILS FROM NEW YORK, SEPT. 8, 1810

ASTOR’S “TONQUIN” ARRIVES AT MOUTH OF COLUMBIA, APRIL 1811

OVERLANDER CROSS THE DIVIDE LED BY WILSON PRICE HUNT

DESTRUCTION FO THE “TONQUIN” NOOTKA SOUND-1811

FIRST OVERLAND ASTORIAN ARRIVE

SOLD TO NORTHWEST FUR COMPANY-BECAME FORT GEAORGE BRITISH

U.S. SHIP “ONTARIA” FLYING AMERICAN FLAG 1818

COMING OF PIONEERS 1837-1848

THE RAILWAY ARRIVES 1893

Around the cupola—ROBERT GRAY, LEWIS & CLARK, JOHN JACOB ASTOR

In 1961, Lord John Jacob, a descendant of John Jacob Astor, attended Astoria's sesquicentennial. He
Chief Concomly's Burial Canoe 
dedicated a memorial to the Chinook Indians at the Astoria Column. The memorial is a replica of a burial canoe, the same that would have been used for Chief Concomly's burial. 

In 1988 the Friends of Astoria Column was established. The column artwork had not been preserved and was deteriorating. This group raised money to get the column restored. They continue today to support this historical monument. You can read about the restoration work here.


Have you ever visited Astoria? Have you climbed the column? One of the popular things to do there is to purchase a balsam glider and throw it from the platform. Of course, you have to climb about a million steps to do it. (In reality only I believe there are only about 170 steps.) The climb is well worth the effort. The view is incredible and you can sometimes see bald eagles soaring overhead.





Please leave a comment to be entered in a drawing. I am giving away an insulated cup from the Astoria Column and a copy of Immigrant Brides, or another of my books if you have that one.


Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and one grandson. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Karen Ball of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.

16 comments:

  1. I haven't been to Astoria but now I'm adding that to my list for the next time we travel up CA into Oregon and Washington. I love towers like that- I climbed the one on Bunker Hill on the east coast as a teenager and thought it was so cool :) Thanks for the giveaway!

    colorvibrant at gmail dot com
    http://heidi-reads.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Heidi. I love climbing towers too. I hope you get to Astoria. It's a wonderful place.

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  2. Very interesting article, Astoria sounds like a place I would like to visit. Thank you for the giveaway

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

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    2. Thank you, Angela. I do hope you get the chance to visit Astoria.

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  3. How interesting! Thank you for sharing and thank you for the giveaway!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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  4. We climbed this column with our kids approximately 15 years ago. So interesting and definitely worth it! Our youngest was scared and my husband had to carry her two-thirds of the way up and all the way down! I was just glad I made it. I had new bifocals, and going down was definitely a challenge.

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    1. I'm glad I didn't have to carry anyone up or down those stairs. It is fun, and worth the climb.

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    2. I would love to visit this place. I don't think I will hike the colum though don't like hights so it's a no for me. But I bet it's pretty nice on the outside.
      oh.hello.hiya@gmail.com

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  5. Astoria sounds wonderful and I would love to visit! Oregon is one of the states that we have not visited...yet! Thank you so much for sharing this interesting post and generous giveaway!!

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thank you, Britney. I hope you get the chance to go to Oregon. It's such a beautiful state.

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  6. Thanks for sharing. I would love to visit this site. jsmithrock88@aol.com

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    1. Thank you. I hope you have the chance to visit.

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  7. Hi Nancy! Thanks for such a great post. I have been to Astoria, in fact I've been wanting to go back ever since I left! I, however, have never heard of the Astoria Column. I went there b/c my most favorite/greatest movie ever made was partly filmed there in the 80's: The Goonies! I took many pics of the houses in the film, the town itself, and later drove down to Haystack Rock, almost an hour up the highway.
    Thanks for the chance to win a copy of Immigrant Brides! I've been dying to read it since it came out!
    kam110476 at gmail dot com

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  8. I was near Astoria, OR but did not look for the column and now I wish I had. I love all that history painted on the column. I have The Immigrant Brides but would love another of your books, Nancy, if I win. I like Painted Desert or Grand Canyon Brides, as I enjoy "collections' and meet different authors and read several stories around a central theme, Thanks for your post. Sharon wileygreen1ATyahooDOTcom

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