Astoria Column is reached via 16th St. and the road to the summit of 600-foot Coxcomb Hill, following signs. Erected in 1926 to commemorate the discovery, exploration and settlement of the Pacific Northwest, this 125-foot-tall concrete column stands high above the Columbia River. Patterned after Trajan's Column in Rome, it was jointly underwritten by the Great Northern Railroad and New York philanthropist Vincent Astor, great grandson of businessman John Jacob Astor.
The exterior is adorned with murals depicting scenes from Oregon history, designed by Italian immigrant artist Attilio Pusterla and executed in a bas-relief technique known as sgraffito (skra-FEE-to) that combines plaster carvings and paint. Astoria’s damp maritime climate has not been kind to the artist’s creations over the years, and several different restoration techniques have been employed to keep them spruced up.
The column’s renovated winding staircase—164 steps in all—can be climbed for the experience, although acrophobes should avoid stepping out onto the viewing platform at the top. But the 360-degree panorama is just as stunning from the paved plaza at the base of the column. The vista of the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia and Lewis and Clark rivers, and coastal mountains is a dazzling patchwork of green and blue, water and sky. From this lofty perspective such landmarks as 3,283-foot Saddle Mountain, northwestern Oregon’s highest point, dramatically stand out. One word of advice: To fully appreciate this glorious view, save the jaunt up Coxcomb Hill for a clear, sunny day.