What does Astoria’s Goonies house have in common with Abe Lincoln’s boyhood cabin? Both are examples of humble dwellings that have taken on outsized symbolic importance.
Unlike the Lincoln cabin in Illinois, which is a replica — the original is said to have been used for firewood after being displayed at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago — the actual Goonies movie setting continues to attract visitors to the site it occupied long before the filming of the 1985 cult classic.
In fact, we don’t need to look all the way east to Honest Abe’s cabin to find a close corollary to the Goonies house. Just a few miles away from it, the replica of Fort Clatsop — or perhaps actually a replica of the replica that burned down in 2005 — attracts thousands of visitors. Even closer at hand, the far less-famous Astoria Customs House is a replica of the actual structure, which was built in 1852.
These comparisons are relevant in light of perennial complaints about Goonies fans intruding into the 38th Street neighborhood where the movie house is located. Many of Astoria’s steep old streets only barely manage to accommodate the access and parking needs of residents. When Steven Spielberg made “The Goonies,” production activities were a short-term novelty and inconvenience. Little did Spielberg or the neighborhood realize the story of a plucky band of treasure-hunting kids would spark a playful decades-long love affair between fans and all things Goonie.
While it may seem to Astorians that this phenomenon must surely someday run its course, “The Goonies” has amazing staying power. Daily Astorian reporter Katie Frankowicz’s story last week about continuing efforts to resolve conflicts between fans and residents quickly became our most-viewed article of the month. On a more positive note, Astoria’s popular Oregon Film Museum really owes its existence to this one movie — more than to all the others, including “Free Willy” and “Kindergarten Cop.” “The Goonies” plays a significant role in Astoria’s economy and mystique.
As our story indicated, managing friction between fans and residents depends in part on consistent patrols and enforcement of parking restrictions. If a Goonies sequel is ever made — and Hollywood loves trying to capitalize on proven successes — much thought will have to be devoted to planning not only for filming impacts, but for an inevitable resurgence of attention for the story’s original settings around Clatsop County.
Returning to the subject of replicas, it is remarkable that entrepreneurs haven’t recreated the Goonies house set in a more convenient location, stocking it with photo backdrops, fake doubloons, an actor costumed as Sloth, and belly-revealing T-shirts.
Negotiating licensing agreements would take some creative legal footwork, but fortunes have been made on smaller premises than this. And if private industry can’t manage it, perhaps the envisioned expanded film museum will incorporate a convincing house replica, luring fans away from the original where they are less than welcome.
For all of its well-earned reputation as a place with a commitment to remaining genuine and connected to its hardworking roots, Astoria remains more than a little starstruck. It’s fun for such a small city to have such a big connection to the movies. We must continue exploring ways to make the most of this linkage, while finding better ways to politely play host to new generations of movie fans.