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Astoria, Oregon

The city of Astoria is the county seat of Clatsop County, Oregon, United States. Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, the city was named after the American investor (and first millionaire) John Jacob Astor. His fur trading company founded Fort Astoria at the site in 1810. Astoria was incorporated in 1876.

Located on the south shore of the Columbia, the city is served by the Port of Astoria with a deep water port. Transportation includes the Astoria Regional Airport with U.S. Route 30 and U.S. Route 101 as the main highways, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge connecting to neighboring Washington across the river. The population was 9,813 at the 2000 census. As of 2007, the state estimate raises it to 10,045 residents.


The Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1805-1806 at Fort Clatsop, a small log structure south and west of modern day Astoria. The expedition had hoped a ship would come by to take them back east, but instead endured a torturous winter of rain and cold, then returned east the way they came. Today the fort has been recreated and is now a national monument.

Several years later, in 1810, John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company sent the Astor Expedition that founded Fort Astoria as its primary fur-trading post in the Northwest, and in fact the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast. It was an extremely important post for American exploration of the continent and was influential in establishing American claims to the land. The company failed, however, and the fort and fur trade were sold to the British in 1813. The house was restored to the U.S. in 1818, though the fur trade would remain under British control until American pioneers following the Oregon Trail began filtering into the port town in the mid-1840s.

Washington Irving, a prominent American writer with a European reputation, was approached by John Jacob Astor to mythologize the three-year reign of his Pacific Fur Company. Astoria (1835), written while Irving was Astor's guest, cemented the importance of the region in the American psyche. In Irving's words, the fur traders were "Sinbads of the wilderness", and their venture was a staging point for the spread of American economic power into both the continental interior and into the Pacific.

As the Oregon Territory grew and became increasingly more settled, Astoria likewise grew as a port city at the mouth of the great river that provided the easiest access to the interior. The first U.S. Post Office west of the Rocky Mountains was established in Astoria in 1847. In 1876, the community was legally incorporated. It attracted a host of immigrants beginning in the late-nineteenth century:Scandinavian settlers, primarily Finns, and Chinese soon became significant parts of the population. The Finns mostly lived in Uniontown, near the present-day end of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, and took fishing jobs; the Chinese tended to do cannery work, and usually lived either downtown or in bunkhouses near the canneries. In 1883, and again in 1922, downtown Astoria was devastated by fire, partly because it was mostly wood and entirely raised off the marshy ground on pilings. Even after the first fire, the same format was used, and the second time around the flames spread quickly again, as collapsing streets took out the water system. Frantic citizens resorted to dynamite, blowing up entire buildings to stop the fire from going further.

Astoria has served as a port of entry for over a century and remains the trading center for the lower Columbia basin, although it has long since been eclipsed by Portland and Seattle as an economic hub on the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Astoria's economy centered around fishing, fish processing, and lumber. In 1945, about 30 canneries could be found along the Columbia; however, in 1974 Bumblebee Seafood moved its headquarters out of Astoria, and gradually reduced its presence until 1980 when the company closed its last Astoria cannery. The timber industry likewise declined; Astoria Plywood Mill, the city's largest employer, closed in 1989, and the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway discontinued service in 1996.

In 1966 the Astoria-Megler Bridge was opened; it completed U.S. Route 101 and linked Astoria with Washington State on the opposite shore of the Columbia.

Today, tourism, Astoria's growing art scene, and light manufacturing are the main economic activities of the city. It is a port of call for cruise ships, with many docking in 2004, 2005, 13 in 2006, and 14 scheduled for 2007.

In addition to the replicated Fort Clatsop, a popular point of interest is the Astoria Column, a tower high built atop the hill above the town, with an inner circular staircase allowing visitors to climb to see a breathtaking view of the town, the surrounding lands, and the mighty Columbia flowing into the Pacific. The column was built by the Astor family in 1926 to commemorate the region's early history.

Since 1998, artistically-inclined fishermen and women from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest have traveled to Astoria for the Fisher Poets Gathering, where poets and singers tell their tales to honor the fishing industry and lifestyle.

Astoria is also the western terminus of the TransAmerica Trail, a bicycle touring route created by the American Cycling Association.


As of the census of 2000, there were 9,813 people, 4,235 households, and 2,469 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,597.6 people per square mile (617.1/km²). There were 4,858 housing units at an average density of 790.9/sq mi (305.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.08% White, 0.52% Black or African American, 1.14% Native American, 1.94% Asian, 0.19% Pacific Islander, 2.67% from other races, and 2.46% from two or more races. 5.98% of the population were Hispanic American or Latino of any race. 14.2% were of German, 11.4% Irish, 10.2% English, 8.3% United States or American, 6.1% Finnish, 5.6% Norwegian, and 5.4% Scottish ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 4,235 households out of which 28.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.5% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.7% were non-families. 35.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.0% under the age of 18, 9.1% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 24.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,011, and the median income for a family was $41,446. Males had a median income of $29,813 versus $22,121 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,759. About 11.6% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.0% of those under age 18 and 9.6% of those age 65 or over.

Geography and climate

Astoria is located above the equator .

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.6 square miles (27.5 km²), of which, 6.1 square miles (15.9 km²) of it is land and 4.5 square miles (11.6 km²) of it (42.18%) is water.


Astoria lies within the Marine west coast climate zone, with very mild temperatures year-round, some of the most consistent in the continental United States; normal winters are mild for Astoria's latitude, generally above freezing, and wet. Summers are cool, although short heat waves can occur. Rainfall is most abundant in late fall and winter, and lightest in late summer. Snowfall is relatively rare but does accumulate in small amounts in winter.


The Astoria School District has five schools, each of which serves a different age group of students:

  • Captain Robert Gray Elementary School
  • John Jacob Astor Elementary School
  • Lewis & Clark Elementary School
  • Astoria Middle School
  • Astoria High School


Astoria in popular culture

Shanghaied In Astoria is a musical about Astoria's history, that has been performed in Astoria every year since 1984.

Astoria was the setting of the 1985 movie The Goonies, which was filmed on location. Other movies filmed in Astoria include Overboard, Short Circuit, The Black Stallion, Kindergarten Cop, Free Willy, Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Benji the Hunted, The Ring, The Ring Two, and Into the Wild.

The early 1960s television series Route 66 filmed the episode entitled "One Tiger to a Hill in Astoria; it was broadcast on September 211962.

An album by the rock band The Ataris, So Long, Astoria, has cover art and a title song depicting the city.

Astoria is mentioned in Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash as the best place at that point in the novel to get to the USS Enterprise.

Astoria was also mentioned in the movie Eight Below; it was the current hometown of character Jerry Shepherd. Most recently it was mentioned in the movie about the Coast Guard "The Guardian" with Kevin Costner.

The monster movie It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)has a reference to Astoria, OR. The Navy tracks the beast (a giant Octopus), first to Astoria Oregon, where it attacks people on shore, leaving sucker imprints in the sand.

Other points of interest

Sister city

Astoria has one sister city, as designated by Sister Cities International:

Notable residents

  • Brian Bruney, New York Yankees reliever
  • Holly Madison, one of Hugh Hefner's girlfriends, born in Astoria but left before 2nd birthday
  • Ranald MacDonald, first man to teach the English language in Japan
  • Donald Malarkey, World War II U.S. Army soldier, portrayed in TV series Band of Brothers

Further reading

  • MacGibbon, Elma (1904). Leaves of knowledge. Shaw & Borden Co. Elma MacGibbons reminiscences about her travels in the United States starting in 1898, which were mainly in Oregon and Washington. Includes chapter "Astoria and the Columbia River."


External links

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