Last updated: November 1, 2021
Lewis and Clark NHT Visitor Centers and Museums
Located in Astoria, Oregon, the 125-foot-tall Astoria Column serves as a monument to the history Pacific Northwest. The idea for the column first came about in 1898 when the city thought to build an electrified tower that would rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. In 1914, the project began to take its first tentative steps toward becoming a reality when the City of Astoria bought 30 acres of land on Coxcomb Hill. By 1917, a flagpole was erected on the site, and Astor Park was officially created just in time for the town’s 4th of July celebration.
Visitor Centers (shown in orange), High Potential Historic Sites (shown in black), and Pivotal Places (shown in green) along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
From 1917 to 1925, little progress was made on the tower project. Then, in 1925, Ralph Budd, president of the Great Northern Railway, approached New York architect, Electus Litchfield, with the renewed interest. Together with artist Attilio Pusterla, they formulated a plan to erect a column decorated with a sgraffito-style painted histogram recounting the region’s history spanning from the discovery of the Columbia River to the arrival of the railroad. Construction began in March of 1926, and the Astoria Column was officially dedicated during a celebration attended by 8,000 people on July 22, 1926.
Today, the Astoria Column attracts visitors from around the world. Pusterla’s sgraffito artwork, an ancient technique in which images are engraved into wet plaster and then colored powders are hand-blown into the outlines, is a source of wonder for many. The lower bands begin with Captain Gray’s arrival to the Columbia River in May 1792, and his first contact with the Chinook and Clatsop tribes. As it winds up to the top of the column, the histogram continues with the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s arrival in the area, the arrival of the first European settlers, and ends with the arrival of the railroad to Astoria in 1893.
Admission to the park is free, but visitors are required to purchase a 1-year parking pass for $5 per vehicle. Visitors may climb the inside of the tower to the observation deck at the top, which provides a spectacular view of Astoria and the Columbia River. The gift shop’s hours of operation vary, and visitors are encouraged to call the monument at (503) 325-2963 for current hours. More information can also be found at the Astoria Column’s website at The Astoria Column.