Astoria is the seat of Clatsop County, Oregon, United States. Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, the city was named after the American investor John Jacob Astor. His American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria at the site in 1811. Astoria was incorporated by the Oregon Legislative Assembly on October 20, 1876.
Located on the south shore of the Columbia, the city is served by the Port of Astoria with a deep-water port. Transportation includes the Astoria Regional Airport with U.S. Route 30 and U.S. Route 101 as the main highways, and the Astoria – Megler Bridge connecting to neighboring Washington across the river. The population was 9,477 at the 2010 census.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1805–1806 at Fort Clatsop, a small log structure south and west of modern day Astoria. The expedition had hoped a ship would come by to take them back east, but instead endured a torturous winter of rain and cold, then returned east the way they came. Today the fort has been recreated and is now a national monument.
In 1810, John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company sent the Astor Expedition that founded Fort Astoria as its primary fur-trading post in the Northwest, and in fact the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast. It was an extremely important post for American exploration of the continent and was influential in establishing American claims to the land. Fort Astoria was constructed in 1811.
British explorer David Thompson was the first European to navigate the entire length of the Columbia River in 1811. Thompson reached the partially constructed Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia, arriving two months after the Pacific Fur Company's ship, the Tonquin.
The Pacific Fur Company failed, however, and the fort and fur trade were sold to the British in 1813. The house was restored to the U.S. in 1818, though the fur trade would remain under British control until American pioneers following the Oregon Trail began filtering into the port town in the mid-1840s. The Treaty of 1818 established joint U.S. – British occupancy of territory west of the continental divide to the Pacific Ocean. In 1846 the Oregon Treaty ended the Oregon Boundary Dispute; with Britain ceding all right to the mainland south of the 49th parallel north.
Washington Irving, a prominent American writer with a European reputation, was approached by John Jacob Astor to mythologize the three-year reign of his Pacific Fur Company. Astoria (1835), written while Irving was Astor's guest, cemented the importance of the region in the American psyche. In Irving's words, the fur traders were "Sinbads of the wilderness", and their venture was a staging point for the spread of American economic power into both the continental interior and into the Pacific.
As the Oregon Territory grew and became increasingly more settled, Astoria likewise grew as a port city at the mouth of the great river that provided the easiest access to the interior. The first U.S. Post Office west of the Rocky Mountains was established in Astoria in 1847. In 1876, the community was incorporated by the state.
Astoria attracted a host of immigrants beginning in the late-19th century: Nordic settlers, primarily Finns, and Chinese soon became significant parts of the population. The Finns mostly lived in Uniontown, near the present-day end of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, and took fishing jobs; the Chinese tended to do cannery work, and usually lived either downtown or in bunkhouses near the canneries. In 1883, and again in 1922, downtown Astoria was devastated by fire, partly because it was mostly wood and entirely raised off the marshy ground on pilings. Even after the first fire, the same format was used, and the second time around the flames spread quickly again, as collapsing streets took out the water system. Frantic citizens resorted to dynamite, blowing up entire buildings to stop the fire from going further.
Astoria has served as a port of entry for over a century and remains the trading center for the lower Columbia basin, although it has long since been eclipsed by Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington as an economic hub on the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Astoria's economy centered on fishing, fish processing, and lumber. In 1945, about 30 canneries could be found along the Columbia; however, in 1974 Bumblebee Seafood moved its headquarters out of Astoria, and gradually reduced its presence until 1980 when the company closed its last Astoria cannery. The timber industry likewise declined; Astoria Plywood Mill, the city's largest employer, closed in 1989, and the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway discontinued service in 1996.
From 1921 to 1966, a ferry route across the Columbia River connected Astoria with Pacific County, Washington. In 1966 the Astoria–Megler Bridge was opened; it completed U.S. Route 101 and linked Astoria with Washington on the opposite shore of the Columbia, and replaced the ferries.
Today, tourism, Astoria's growing art scene, and light manufacturing are the main economic activities of the city. It is a port of call for cruise ships since 1982, after $10 million in pier improvements to accommodate cruise ships. To avoid Mexican ports of call during the Swine Flu outbreak of 2009, many cruises were re-routed to include Astoria. The residential community The World visited Astoria in June 2009.
In addition to the replicated Fort Clatsop, a popular point of interest is the Astoria Column, a tower high, built atop Coxcomb Hill above the town, with an inner circular staircase allowing visitors to climb to see a panoramic view of the town, the surrounding lands, and the Columbia flowing into the Pacific. The column was built by the Astor family in 1926 to commemorate the region's early history.
Since 1998, artistically-inclined fishermen and women from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest have traveled to Astoria for the Fisher Poets Gathering, where poets and singers tell their tales to honor the fishing industry and lifestyle.
Astoria is also the western terminus of the TransAmerica Trail, a bicycle touring route created by the American Cycling Association.