[caption id="attachment_802" align="alignnone" width="700" caption="Lewis and Clark Exhibit in One of the Many Historic Sites in the Area"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_795" align="alignnone" width="700" caption="The Astoria Bridge over the Columbia River"][/caption]
Dear friend Bill has returned to the Pacific Northwest after ten years of living in the dusty Rockies, and his new home is the charming town of Astoria, on Oregon’s upper northwest coast. I took the first opportunity I had to visit, and came away impressed. While not bustling, I would say that Astoria has a respectable and healthy downtown, comprised mainly of local merchants offering a variety of wares, including a nice assortment of indy coffee houses and brew pubs.
Similar in size to Capitol Hill (kind of), many of the buildings would feel at home on the Pike Pine corridor. What impressed me most about the downtown was the stewardship of the buildings. The buildings appeared to be very well maintained, which must be a full time endeavor for a city built on the stormy Pacific Northwest coast. Architectural stewardship is a good metric of for gauging the relative health of a city, as is the above-mentioned variety of the locally based retail. No doubt Astoria’s economy benefits from being on one of the most beautiful coast lines in the United States, as well as being the first permanent English speaking settlement on the West coast of the country, yet the city still maintains an authenticity of place that would not be possible if it thrived solely on the tourist trade and history buffs.
In addition to a fine urban center, the Astoria area is blessed with a cultural heritage and sense of purpose that surprise. Built at the tempestuous confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, Astoria provides the ideal training environment for the Coast Guard’s elite Advanced Helicopter/Swimmer Rescue School. Additional evidence of the area’s maritime heritage is on display in the more sanguine environment in the Columbia Maritime Museum.
Should one want to wander outside the confines on the museum’s walls, in-situ history is easily accessible in one of the many Lewis and Clark state and national historic sites on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia River, the terminus of their legendary Corps of Discovery. Artifacts of more recent history can also be found in the area’s state and national parks, such as the gun batteries that are remnants of the coastal defenses erected during the Spanish American and World Wars. Should your historical interests not yet be satiated, try the Lewis and Clark Visitors Center, magnificently perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.
Of course all of the above pales in caparison to the sublime natural setting. It is, after all, the natural environment that draws many of us here, and whose embrace keeps us from wanting to live anywhere else. I would like to think that it is the scenic bounty of Cascadia that is the driver of our progressive environmental and urban practices, and the fire that fuels our passion to live this magnificent area.