Sharing space in a historic redbrick building (formerly the North Pacific Brewery, built in 1896) are two museums, the Uppertown Firefighters Museum and Astoria’s Children’s Museum that will especially appeal to kids (2968 Marine Dr., 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Wed.–Fri., 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Sat., $3 for both museums).
Uppertown Firefighters Museum
The Uppertown Firefighters Museum (503/325-2203) displays an extensive collection of firefighting equipment dating from 1873 to 1963. Featured are hand-pulled, horse-drawn, and motorized fire engines, including a 1912 American LaFrance fire truck, a Stutz fire engine, and a 1946 Mack fire truck. The photos and information about the devastating fires of 1893 and 1922 are fascinating.
Astoria Children’s Museum
The Astoria Children’s Museum (503/325-8669, www.acmrocks.org) provides hands-on activities and other fun and educational programs for kids. Permanent exhibits include a child-sized grocery store and an active toddler area. Additional special activities are scheduled during school breaks and summer vacation.
The Clatsop County Historical Society operates the Heritage Museum (1618 Exchange St., 503/325-2203, www.cumtux.org, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily May–Sept., 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Sat. Oct.–Apr., $4 adults, $3 seniors, $2 children 6–12). Housed in the handsome neoclassical building that was originally Astoria’s city hall, it has several galleries filled with antiquities, tools, vintage photographs, and archives chronicling various aspects of life in Clatsop County.
The museum’s centerpiece exhibit concentrates on the culture of the local Clatsop and Chinook people, from before European contact up to the present day. Other exhibits highlight natural history, geology, early immigrants and settlers in the region, and the development of commerce in such fields as fishing, fish packing, logging, and lumber. The research library is open to the public.
Flavel House Museum
Captain George Flavel, Astoria’s first millionaire, amassed a fortune in the mid-19th century through his Columbia Bar piloting monopoly and later expanded his empire through shipping, banking, and real estate. Between 1884 and 1886 he had a home built in the center of Astoria, now the Flavel House Museum (441 8th St., 503/325-2203, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily May–Sept., 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Sat. Oct.–Apr., $5 adults, $4 seniors and students, $2 children 6–17, 5 and younger free) overlooking the Columbia River, where he retired with his wife and two daughters.
From its fourth-story cupola, Flavel could watch the comings and goings of his sailing fleet. Although the captain died in 1893, members of the family lived in the house until 1933. The amazing story of the Flavel family was depicted in colorful detail by Calvin Trillin in the February 8, 1993, issue of the New Yorker.
When the Clatsop County Historical Society assumed stewardship in 1951, the mansion was slated for demolition, to be paved over as a parking lot for the adjacent courthouse. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of the historical society and many volunteers, the house still stands today, at the corner of 8th and Duane Streets. The splendidly extravagant Queen Anne mansion reflects the rich style and elegance of the late Victorian era and the lives of Astoria’s most prominent family. Known locally as “the house with the red roof,” it has withstood more than a century of storms off the Columbia River estuary.
The property encompasses a full city block. With its intricate woodwork inside and out, period furnishings, and art, along with its extravagantly rendered gables, cornices, and porches, the Flavel House ranks with the Carson Mansion in Eureka, California, as a Victorian showplace. The 14-foot ceilings, Persian rugs, and an array of imported tiles are upstaged only by the fireplaces framed in exotic hardwoods in every room. The Carriage House is an orientation center for visitors, with exhibits, an interpretive video, and a museum store.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel