My wife Susan and I recently visited the Astoria Column in Astoria, Oregon and we thought that a recap and update to the story about it that appeared in the July 1997 issue of Lighthouse Digest would be appropriate.
Following are some of the statistics:
Dedicated July 22, 1926
Built on the top of Coxcomb Hill (600 feet)
Tower - 125 feet high with 164 Steps
Original cost - $27,133.96 paid for by the
Great Northern Railroad & Vincent Astor
Road improvements with the excess paid for
by the City of Astor
The beautiful artwork around the column: 500 feet long
Repair of artwork done in 1936
Column restoration 1995 of the cost of $1 Million
Plaza restoration 2004: $1.75 Million
Staircase replacement 2008: $400 thousand
At some point, probably around, 2010, the gift shop starting selling balsawood glider planes that were allowed to be thrown off the top of the structure. Sometimes with the updrafts, the planes stay in the air for a couple of minutes. Since they are biodegradable, they don’t hurt the nearby wooded area where many of the planes land in (that’s where mine ended up!). Of course some end up in the parking lot or plaza, are generally picked up by a child (some fully grown) who is ready to climb to the top of the column to send it off again. Some folks buy a dozen or more and take turns to see whose plane stays up with the longest flight.
Another interesting item that is sold in the gift shop is lapel pins. There are two different pins with almost the same design, but one has a blue background and the other has a red one. Both say “I made it to the top. 264 steps.” The inside circle says “Astoria Column, Dedicated 1926” and at the bottom, “Astoria, Oregon, USA.” In the middle is the top part of the column. However, there is also a red pin that has a banner that goes at a 45 degree angle that says, “I failed to do it,” which obviously is for those who did not make the climb. The blue pins outsell the red by 5 to 1, but I thought it was a clever idea. I bought both.
In 1988, the Friends of Astoria Column was formed. Since then, they have raised money for minor repairs and restorations, some of the funds coming from grants.
Similar to what some lighthouse groups have done there is a plaque at each level showing the names of people, groups, and businesses that have donated money to sponsor a stair step. There are also pavers in the plaza, like the bricks many lighthouses sell, that can be engraved.
Part of the recent improvements is lighting of the column that lights it up at night and of course since it was built, it has been a beautiful day mark.
A short drive away is the Lightship Columbia, Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, and North Head Lighthouse.
This story appeared in the
Sep/Oct 2017 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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