June 24 – July 26, 2021
Finished with our snack, we drove the Highway 101 causeway across Young’s Bay and entered Astoria proper, ready for another full afternoon. Our primary stop that afternoon would be the Flavel House Museum, built in 1885 in the Queen Anne architectural style, by George Flavel, a Columbia River bar pilot who was one of the area’s first millionaires.
An Irish American maritime pilot and entrepreneur, Flavel was born in 1823 and relocated to the West coast of the United States in 1849, working as a tugboat operator between Sacramento and San Francisco. In 1851, he settled in Astoria, Oregon, where he became one of the first licensed bar pilots in the state.
He would go on to amass a fortune with a business managing pilot boats on the Columbia River, making him a prominent local figure, and one of the first millionaires in Oregon. In addition to bar piloting, he was involved in several other entrepreneurial endeavors, including operating a wharf in Astoria, and managing a coal business from Australia. At the time of his death in 1893, Flavel had a net worth of nearly $2 million (equivalent to $57,607,407 in 2020).
After Flavel’s death in 1893, his wife Mary Christina lived in the house with the couple’s daughters, Nellie, and Katie, until her death in 1922. Both Katie and Nelly lived in the home until their deaths in 1910 and 1933, respectively. Flavel’s eldest great-granddaughter, Patricia Jean Flavel, inherited the home from her aunt Nellie Flavel, and donated the property to the Clatsop County Historical Society around 1934. Patricia Jean Flavel died in 2014 at age 101.
We started in the visitor center and gift shop, lodged in what was the Carriage House (built in 1887). Over the years it was home to horses, carriages and later automobiles, the upper story also serving as living quarters for the family’s driver. From there we walked through the lushly landscaped yard to the front door to enter the house and begin our self-guided tour. Faithful readers of this blog know of our fascination with these houses from different eras, giving us a glimpse at various moments in the world’s history, a peek at the lifestyles of folks certainly better off than us.
One of the best things about this house is because it stayed in the family for many years before being owned by the County, is that most of the furnishings are original to the household. And for its time, it was a modern dwelling, with gas lighting, indoor plumbing, and a central heating system. We finished up our tour and as the afternoon was drawing to a close, made one more stop by driving up a steep hill to the top of Coxcomb Hill to the Astoria Column. This concrete and steel structure is part of a 30-acre city park. The 125-foot-tall column has a 164-step spiral staircase ascending to an observation deck at the top.
The tower was built with financing by the Great Northern Railway and Vincent Astor, the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, in commemoration of the city’s role in the family’s business history. Patterned after the Trajan Column in Rome (and Place Vendôme Column in Paris), the Astoria Column was dedicated on July 22, 1926. In 1974, the column was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the murals that make up the column were refurbished in 1995 while a granite plaza was added in 2004.
Done with sightseeing for the day, it was time for a beer. We drove back down the hill and headed to the waterfront hoping to stop in at Astoria Brewing, but found a long line there and crowded seating so instead walked a couple of blocks into town to stop in at Reach Break Brewing, a good call on our part as the beer was very good.
Seated under tents on the patio, the cool weather we’d experienced along the coast necessitated long sleeves or a jacket but didn’t diminish our enjoyment of a couple of high gravity IPA’s and Stouts, particularly the Coconut Stout. As we drank, we began to think about dinner plans and considered one of the two food trucks on site, but I had read a good review of a Thai restaurant back on the Warrenton side of the bay and so we decided to check it out instead.
We parked in the lot at Nisa’s Thai Kitchen and entered, seating ourselves at a table near the front windows, the only customers at the time. Throughout our dining experience some more diners would show up, but the bulk of the business was take-out, at an astonishing rate. Joanna started with a Thai Iced Coffee and for me a Singha beer to accompany our order of Egg Rolls.
Next up was an order of perfectly fried Calamari that melted in the mouth with each bite, accompanied by a sweet and sour sauce different from the one that came with the Egg Rolls, but both uniquely delicious. And for the finish, a sizable order of Chicken Peanut Curry, the mild curry complimented by the peanut, giving the dish a silky creaminess that made each bite of soaked rice a delight.
Our last day would combine a bike ride and one last bit our sightseeing and so we took off in the morning to ride out of the park and across the street into Fort Stevens. It has a comprehensive system of bike paths (although traffic is light and riding on the roads is not an issue) and we retraced many of our steps from the day before, including heading out to the jetty and the batteries at the historic fort.
We finished with an easy 20 miles, good enough for the time and effort required and returned to camp to take showers and head out one more time as tourists to visit Lewis and Clark National Historic Park.
The entire park is large, located in the vicinity of the mouth of the Columbia River, and administration of the park, which includes both federal and state lands, is a cooperative effort of the National Park Service and the states of Oregon and Washington. The National Historical Park was dedicated on November 12, 2004.
After reaching the Pacific Ocean, the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Corps of Discovery) camped at Fort Clatsop in the winter of 1805–1806. This would be the part of the overall park we’d be visiting as it features a replica of the fort and a nearby visitor center. The Federal part also includes the Fort to Sea, Netul Landing, Salt Works, Station Camp/Middle Village, and Clark’s Dismal Nitch. Oregon parts include Ecola and Fort Stevens State Parks, and the Sunset Beach Recreation Site. Washington components are Cape Disappointment and Fort Columbia Parks.
We hit the visitor center for some background information and then walked a short distance to the reconstructed fort. The Lewis and Clark Expedition wintered here, taking just over 3 weeks to build the fort, and it served as their camp from December 8, 1805 until their departure on March 23, 1806. The original Fort Clatsop decayed in the wet climate of the region but was reconstructed for the sesquicentennial in 1955 from sketches in the journals of William Clark.
The replica lasted for fifty years, but was severely damaged by fire in early October 2005, weeks before Fort Clatsop’s bicentennial. A new replica, more rustic and rough-hewn, was built by about 700 volunteers in 2006; it opened with a dedication ceremony that took place on December 9. The replica of the fort isn’t in the exact location of the original, as no remains of the original fort have been found. However, it is thought to be quite close to the exact location.
Much like visiting the Flavel house the day before, viewing the fort reminds one of the conditions these folks faced, and yet the fort, as primitive as it may seem, had to have been quite an improvement over their lot as they traveled by canoe and overland as they found their way west. We walked in and out of the rooms, chatted with one of the docents and then made our way to an opening in the forest for a black powder rifle demonstration.
Introduced at the park in 1968 by Park Ranger Emmet Nichols, this demonstration is a highlight for many visitors since few have actually seen an actual flintlock being loaded and fired. I got to do it many years ago when visiting Doug in Colorado and it is a kick, literally, as the recoil from the rifle is fairly intense. This demonstration included just the right combination of humor, technical instruction and history of the weapon and the payoff of course is the large boom when the rifle is fired.
On the way back to camp we stopped at a Fred Meyer to pick up supplies for dinner, a small jar of pasta sauce, shells, hamburger, and some vegetables for one of our traditional camp food dinners. Easy to assemble and cook, along with a bottle of decent red wine the total cost of the meal is usually less than just the drinks at a restaurant and is one way to keep travel costs low when on the road for many days. We cleaned up and got camp ready to move as we would travel the next day to eastern Washington to start the next part of the journey, always an exciting time as it leaves you wondering what the new day will bring.
Flavel House Museum: https://astoriamuseums.org/explore/flavel-house-museum/
The Astoria Column: https://astoriacolumn.org/
Reach Break Brewing: https://www.reachbreak.com/
Nisa’s Thai Kitchen: https://www.facebook.com/nisasthaifood/?ref=br_rs
Lewis and Clark National Historic Park: https://www.nps.gov/lewi/index.htm