Astoria is the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Astoria history links to the history of discovering new Pacific territories in 1804 when Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led his Corps of Discovery, consisting of 40 soldiers and boatmen, to find a route to the Pacific Ocean. The Lewis and Clark arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River on November 7, 1805, and established Fort Clatsop to spend the winter 1805-1806, while gathering information on resources, land and native inhabitants. Also, they were actively preparing for the return journey, hunting, gathering food, making salt, and trading with the Clatsop, Chinook, and Tillamook tribes.
The tremendous success of the Lewis and Clark expedition opened a new page in the investigation and settling the new Pacific territories.
In 1810, another expedition was sent by John Jacob Astor - the owner of the Pacific Fur Company to establish a fur-trading post. In 1811 at the mouth of the Columbia River was formed Fort Astoria (now the town of Astoria) - the first primary and permanent settlement in the Pacific Northwest.
With the British exploration of the Pacific Coast, David Thompson in 1811 became the first explorer who navigated the whole length of the Columbia River to Fort Astoria. David Thompson arrived at the Fort two months after the Pacific Fur Company's ship 'Tonquin'. This exploration led to the establishment of Astoria as a U.S settlement as opposed to being a British settlement. With this settlement, it became easy for the Americans to solve the land's boundary dispute with Great Britain.
Following the failure of the Pacific Fur Company, the fur trade and fort were captured by a British warship and, eventually, sold to Britain in 1813. In 1818 it was returned to the United States. However, it still remained under the British control up to a period when the American pioneers who followed the Oregon Trail came and settled in the Astoria area in the mid-1840s. In 1846, the Oregon Treaty facilitated the ending of the boundary dispute where the mainland was divided and Britain got control over Vancouver Island, north of the 49th parallel and the United States obtained the lands south of the 49th parallel.
Oregon territory made strides in its growth. Astoria as a port city attracted a lot of immigrants from the East Coast of America, Finland, Norway, and China. In 1847 the first U.S post office on the American Northwest was established.
Town of Astoria
During the Civil War, Fort Stevens was established (1864) to guard the Columbia River against possible attacks. Astoria was growing logging, fishing and canning hub, especially during the Gold Rush period. The population grew from to 2, 803 in 1880. By 1922, the town became the second largest city in Oregon after Portland with the population of 8,975. Like Portland, Astoria was known for its shanghaiing activities when healthy young men (usually drunk) were kidnapped from bars and brothels to serve on commercial or military ships.
The town of Astoria was built on wooden piers over the Columbia River as a center of transportation and commerce. The piers supported large buildings and streets. In 1883, and then in 1922 the fires destroyed streets and buildings. After the 1883 fire, the town was rebuilt in the same fashion with the sidewalk allowing fishing and Shanghai doors in tavern floors. The devastating fire in 1922 continued 11 hours, destroying 32 blocks, 40 acres of buildings, and entire business district. The fire that spread was facilitated by the fact that, Astoria in its original construction was made of wood and raised from the ground by the piling. The second construction after the fire was just as similar to the first as it made use of the wood just like the ones that had been destroyed by fire.
Before a new reconstruction program started, the area around its burned peers war filled in with dredge sands from the river bottom, creating flat land. Rebuilt from 1923 to 1925, the new downtown of Astoria is a National Historic District, as a reflection of America of the 1920s. In contrast to the downtown, the charming Victorian and Craftsman-style houses, standing on the hills above the Columbia River, reminds pastimes of the 1880s.