Ear: Flag pole

The Astoria Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Master Plan (bit.ly/APRDplan) also mentioned that Astoria's Centennial celebration planned to feature the world's tallest flag pole in Shively Park.

There was only one problem: At well over 200 feet tall, it was too long and heavy to be lifted, even with the help of a steam donkey (red arrow in photo, courtesy of the Clatsop County Historical Society). Some local accounts say the pole snapped, which is why it was never raised. But that's not what happened.

According to the April 2012 edition of "The Pacific Coast Architect" the dimensions were mighty, indeed: "The flag pole is of Douglas fir, perfect throughout, with a butt diameter of 5.5 feet and one of 2 feet at the apex. Its length overall is 246 feet, and it is estimated to weigh 93,061 pounds."

Since they couldn't use it for the Astoria Centennial, what to do with it? Conveniently, it just so happened that the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco was coming up in 1915.

In 1914, somehow, someone managed to get that behemoth hunk of wood settled onto a cigar-shaped log raft which was towed to San Francisco by the Hammond Lumber Co., to be presented as a gift from the mayor and the city of Astoria. 

But when the tug approached San Francisco Bay, it was hit by a whopping storm, and the flag pole broke free. Fortunately it's hard to misplace something that large; it was found two days later, and brought to the exposition.

The flag pole (shaped and trimmed to 30 tons, and using three derricks) was finally raised, and sunk 10 feet deep into a 200-ton concrete block. The city of Astoria then provided an enormous flag (40 to 50 feet long) to fly proudly at the top.

Sadly, the flag pole was dismantled sometime after the almost year-long exposition ended. And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, "You know the rest of the story." (bit.ly/centpole1, bit.ly/centpole2, bit.ly/centpole3)

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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