Ear: Column

Since there’s been a brouhaha (again) on Facebook about whether the correct name is the Astoria Column, or the Astor Column, some clarification is needed. Was the name changed from Astor to Astoria, as many believe?

First off, it’s easy to see why there’d be some confusion, after all Vincent Astor, Astoria founder John Jacob Astor’s great-grandson, helped fund the column. And before that, another Astor descendent, John Astor, donated indirectly by contributing to the 1911 Astoria Centennial events; surplus funds from the centennial were used for the column project. (astoriacolumn.org/history)

As always with historical questions about Astoria, Liisa Penner of the Clatsop County Historical Society was consulted. “The original name was Astoria Column,” Liisa said, “and that is the one preferred today, as a reminder that the column memorializes not just John Jacob Astor, but Capt. Robert Gray, Lewis and Clark and others contributing to the development of the area.”

Yet in a sampling of 50 years worth of Astoria City Directories, Liisa found that the name fluctuated back and forth between Astor and Astoria Column.

“In the printed brochures and newspapers in the 1920s and 1930s,” Liisa reported, “it appears to have been Astoria Column. In one brochure from about the 1950s or so, it is Astor Column, and all the more recent ones say Astoria.” The written record being unclear was another factor in how the name confusion arose.

Some time ago, the Ear asked Paula Bue at the Astoria Column Gift Store and Visitor’s Center which name is correct, and she agrees with Liisa. “We get this question a lot,” Paula wrote. “Technically it’s always been the Astoria Column in Astor Park. The monument was never meant to slight one explorer over another.

“But many of us grew up calling the column the Astor Column, and for many decades the signage around town was quite inconsistent. Some signs said The Column, some said Astoria Column and some said Astor’s Column.”

“But, nobody changed the name,” she maintained. “We’ve just made it all more official and consistent.” So now you know — to set the record straight, it’s the Astoria Column.

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.

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