Astoria is not a theme park. In a nation that is increasingly anonymous, Astoria is a very particular place. The town has an abundance of curiosities, nooks and crannies.
The patient observer who walks Astoria's hills in all weather will be rewarded. On sunny days, the town sparkles and you wonder why more people don't live here. On foggy days, the town's magnificent collection of Victorian homes are seen as if through a soft-focus lens. In the rain, walk Astor Street by the river and imagine the Barbary Coast atmosphere that prevailed at the turn of the century, when houses of prostitution dotted the waterfront and sailors were shanghaied from saloons.
Here are some of the town's curiosities:
On an obscure vacant lot, amidst foliage and beneath a spreading tree, is an obelisk marking the first U.S. post office west of the Rocky Mountains. It is on the east side of 15th Street between Exchange Street and Franklin Avenue.
In the block at 15th and Exchange streets is the spot where Fort Astoria stood. This is where it all began. Notice the marble marker to Ranald MacDonald at the east side of this lot, with English language on one side and Japanese characters on the other.
On the northeast corner of the intersection of Exchange and Ninth streets, there is a stone which marks the southern edge of the great Astoria Fire of 1922.
The Doughboy monument on the south side of the 2100 block of Marine Drive contains the first public restrooms to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Astoria Riverfront Trolley is a delightful way to see the town.
Astoria and the North Coast are home to an astounding array of theatrical and musical talent. Catch a production at the River Theater or see "Shanghaied in Astoria" at the Old Finnish Meat Market. Venture inside the Liberty Theater at Commercial and 12th streets to see the rich decorative plaster in this former vaudeville/motion picture palace.
A replica of the first U.S. Customs house west of the Rockies stands in the 3300 block of Lief Erickson Drive.
Get "The Captain's Walking Tour of Downtown Astoria" and the "Pilot's Walking Tour of Downtown Astoria" by Bruce Berney. They are available at the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce.