Thursday, May 15, 2014

Astoria, OR - Astoria

We proclaimed an administrative day today and stayed in the RV with laundry, paperwork, etc. However, in the evening we went to a talk by Peter Stark whose book, ‘Astoria’, had just been published.

A week ago, we were shopping in the Portland Costco and I saw a book called ‘Astoria’ in the book section. Since we’re going to Astoria shortly, it caught my attention. I read a bit of the book itself and the back cover and decided that I would like this book. Well, as a full-time RV’er, I read my books on my I Pad in the Kindle app I’ve got. Back at the RV, I bought it for my I Pad and began reading it. Good book and very gripping. Sometimes, history books can be pretty dry but this told the story of the founding of Astoria, OR as the adventure story it really was.

When Lewis and Clark returned to St Louis and the word of their journey to the Pacific got out, many were interested in it, including John Jacob Astor. He envisioned a trade empire based in Astoria. A triangle trade; he could buy cheap trinkets and beads to trade to the Indians
for otter, beaver and seal furs which he could then transport to China
where fur trim was valued, sell the skins for porcelain and silks from China which he could transport to England
for English manufactured goods and bring these back to America. He’d make a profit on the trinkets, on the furs, on the porcelain and on the manufactured goods. What a deal.

President Jefferson, who had supported Lewis and Clark, envisioned a democratic outpost in Astoria spreading democracy throughout the Pacific. And, just as his purchase of the Louisiana Purchase extended America to the Rocky Mountains, so might this trading post in Astoria extend America’s borders to the Pacific.

But, there were problems throughout the adventure - which is the story that Stark tells and tells such that it’s difficult to put the book down..

He’s on his book tour now and went to Powell’s in Portland. When the Historical Society of Astoria and several others heard, they wondered why he couldn’t come to Astoria, itself? And, here he was.
The talk was held in the Liberty Theater, built in 1925.
Pretty special theater and it has been beautifully restored. I was intrigued with the interior wall paintings which were a series of Venetian-inspired drawings. Designing these was a contest won by Joseph Knowles, who had never been to Venice. Maybe that’s why many local sailors think that the paintings resemble the Columbia River with gondolas rather than fishing boats.


Originally, patrons to the Liberty watched silent movies and vaudeville. Then talkies and WWII newsreels. In the 50’s it went through some renovations but had really fallen on hard times by the 90’s when a local group raised money and refurbished it again to the tune of $7.5 million. Restoration of the chandelier made of paper and cotton, alone cost $100,000.
However, isn’t it a stunning small-town theater?

We really enjoyed the talk by Peter Stark. He took the plot up as far as I had read which was just fine with me. I didn’t want him to reveal any more.

Afterwards we walked around looking for a coffee shop but none was to be had. We finally found a restaurant with a seating area in front for coffee or waiting for tables.

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