Thursday, July 19, 2007

Astoria Column, then & now

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A few pics of, and from, the Astoria Column out in (you guessed it) Astoria. Some from my mini-roadtrip last month, and others from the only other time I've been there, way back in February 1979.

Regarding the 1979 pics, the originals actually look better than what you see here. The scanner I used on these is about a decade old. It doesn't do an overly professional job of figuring out colors, and its dynamic range is pretty limited, so if you have a photo with light parts and dark parts, you can get one or the other to come out somewhat decently. But not both. And it puts ugly vertical bands on everything it scans. And square objects come out a tad on the rectangular side, like photo #2 above. On the other hand, the scanner was free, and Ubuntu's default install includes a driver for it. So that's something, I guess.

The top two pics are more or less the same view of downtown Astoria, taken 28 years apart. The two roughly squarish photos were taken with a 126 camera, which you basically can't even find film for anymore. I'm not 100% sure whether I took those or not, since my own camera was a little 110 just like this one.

Here are a few of the column itself.

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The old photos show the column was looking quite ramshackle in 1979. Just like everything else in Astoria back then, if memory serves. I'm afraid we have to thank the rich Californians for the city's recent revival... but don't tell them I said so. They're plenty smug enough already, the bastards.

The recent one (top one, silly) really isn't that great, I admit. I was mostly taking shots of the view from the column, but as an afterthought I decided I needed at least one photo of the column itself and took a quick snap of it. (If you want to see better photos of it, there's no shortage of them out on the interwebs. There are even a couple VR panoramas, which are less vertigo-inducing than you might expect.)

The column doesn't actually lean like that, in case you're wondering. Although that would make the trip up the stairs even more exciting than it already is. It's a dark, winding, narrow, rickety, alarming little staircase, with lots of tiny little oddly-shaped spiral steps.

If I'd taken a better recent pic, you could see how the city completely renovated the exterior a couple of years ago. There wasn't much they could do with the stairs, though. It's not like they could've made them any wider or anything.

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In my defense, photographically speaking, the camera wasn't shaking in these shots. It was me that was shaking. Oh, and the stairs were shaking, too. I didn't remember the stairs being that scary in 1979.

Several kids ran past me on the stairs going both directions. Who knows, maybe they'll come back 30 years from now and they'll wonder if it was always that scary. Or they'll just float up to the top with their antigravity boots, sneering at all the poor chumps of decades past who had to worry about stuff like "stairs" and "exercise".

So anyway, here's the very top of the column, taken from the balcony.

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A few grain ships on the Columbia. Ships tend to park in Astoria temporarily on their way to Portland. I don't know if it's due to the tide, or they're waiting in line for a river pilot, or the Astoria visitor's bureau pays them to create some nautical ambience, or what it is, exactly.

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Looking south, here's Saddle Mountain and (I think) the Lewis and Clark River.

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Just across the parking lot from the column, and steps from the gift shop, is this odd memorial to a local Indian chief who befriended Lewis & Clark while they were here, 200-odd years ago.

The memorial only dates to 1961, and was put together by people claiming to be descendants of the aforementioned chief. Which is a nice touch, certainly, although I don't know how you'd ever be able to prove a claim like that. If you're running a cash-strapped city parks department, and someone comes along wanting to give you something for free, most likely you don't ask a lot of tough questions. They could say grandpa was the Shah of Atlantis, for all you care, so long as their checks clear. But hey, I'm always a cynic, in case you hadn't noticed.

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1 comment :

Thartill said...

Good pics!

I didn't realize how much better it looks now than back in 79.

Actually the River is Youngs River....from the Column the Lewis and Clark River is a bit more to the West.