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Historic Charm
Published: 12/25/2009
 
Liberty Theater is a meticulously restored 1920s vaudeville motion picture palace now home to year round musical, theater and community events.
Liberty Theater is a meticulously restored 1920s vaudeville motion picture palace now home to year round musical, theater and community events.
Photo by Gary Hayes

The oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, Astoria, Oregon preserves the flavor of years past.

Just a few years after Lewis and Clark began to retrace their trail eastward, entrepreneur John Jacob Astor ventured to establish a fur trading post in the west. He dispatched both seaward and overland expeditions, and in 1811 a fort was constructed at the mouth of the Columbia River, instituting the settlement of Astoria. The community gradually expanded and soon boasted the first post office and U.S. Customs office west of the Continental Divide. The late 1800s saw a development boom with flourishing salmon fishing, canning, forestry and shipping industries, and by the beginning of the 20th century Astoria was thriving with a population just under 9000. (Current census figures hover around 10,000.) Despite devastating fires in 1883 and 1922, countless structures and artifacts have survived to tell the story of days gone by. Hundreds of Victorian homes beautify the Astoria hillsides; several now accommodate bed and breakfasts. The old waterfront canneries today house an eclectic mix of shops, galleries and restaurants, easily explored by hopping on and off Astoria's 1913 riverfront trolley. The town's rich history emanates from every corner and seemingly endless jewels of Astoria trivia - it's the birthplace of cable television, for example, and it's home to the west's oldest shoe store. To immerse yourself in the region's history explore the fascinating collections displayed at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, Clatsop County Heritage Museum and Flavel House. Visit the downtown Liberty Theater, a meticulously restored 1920s vaudeville motion picture palace, and visit the Astoria Column, a 125-foot pillar commemorating the forging of the American West. And no explorer should miss Fort Clatsop, (just five miles southwest of town), where the 33-member Lewis and Clark Expedition endured the grueling winter of 1805-06. Delve into historic Astoria and take a step back in time. For more information, contact the Clatsop County Historical Society at (503) 325-2203. - By Jenna Boyle

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