Astoria seems to be making steps toward a community that reflects the one it was founded on, a community with an entrepreneurial spirit with small town flavor and old world charm. As I continued my walk and gazed out on the wide horizon, eyeing the river as it ebbs toward the sea, I thought, I could imagine myself here.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Astoria Series Part One: Settlement
As part of my journey to one day own my own cafe, I've decided to visit small towns in Oregon and Washington to get more of an idea of not only how but where I could make this dream into a reality. Which leads me to my first stop, Astoria, Oregon. Today, as I was casually walking through the historic neighborhood district, I asked myself, what is it about this town that grabs me? It has history, charm, and a thriving community. Situated at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, Astoria is the oldest settlement West of the Rockies. It was first visited by Captain Robert Gray in 1792, discovered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805, and since the first settlement in 1811, has gone through it's share of changes. John Jacob Aster is perhaps it's most famous resident, a millionaire who founded the Pacific Fur Company. The most prominent citizen, however, would most likely be Captain George Flavel. In the decades surrounding the Civil War, Flavel, one of the first bar pilots on the Columbia River, required a fee for ships to pass through the mouth of the river, which in addition to his other business adventures, made him a very rich man. His elaborate Victorian mansion is still standing today and is now the property of the Clatsop County Historical Society. It was written once in a newspaper editorial that Astoria would become "the future New York of the Pacific- God's highway to the Sea". Though Astoria never became anything close to a bustling city such as New York, it reached is highest occupancy of twenty five thousand people during the second World War. When the naval base closed, more port related business was taken to Portland. With lumber mills closing and salmon populations on the decline, the once thriving community now began facing a rough road ahead. The Astoria of today, however, is showing signs of recovery. With highway 30 running through the core of the city, it is a destination town of thousands of Oregon coast travelers. Cruise ships visit the waterfront almost weekly infusing the core of downtown with business and foot traffic. And the downtown, though still run down in some areas, now has quaint shops and restaurants filling in these spaces. A farmer's market runs every Sunday from May to October and weekends throughout the year are booked with local events from a fishers poets gathering- songs, short stories, and personal memoirs and other accounts at sea- to crab feeds, wine tasting, and musical festivals.