Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon"
Includes ... Vista House ... Crown Point ... Historic Columbia River Highway ... National Register of Historic Places ... Views from Vista House ...
Image, 2004, Columbia River Gorge and Crown Point, click to enlarge
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Looking towards the Columbia River Gorge, Crown Point, and Vista House. View from The Portland Womans Forum Scenic View (formerly Chanticleer Point). Image taken October 11, 2004.


Vista House ...
The Vista House was built in 1916 at the same time as the Columbia River Highway - today known as the Historic Columbia River Highway. It is still the only route to Crown Point. The official opening of the Columbia River Highway (from Portland to Hood River) was on June 6, 1916. The dedication took place at Crown Point, 733 feet above the Columbia River. Construction of Vista House began that same year.

Image, 2005, Vista House and Crown Point, click to enlarge
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Vista House at Crown Point. Image taken March 6, 2005.
Image, 2004, Vista House, 1917, click to enlarge
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Vista House, 1917, lower entrance, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Automobiles once dropped ladies off at this lower entrance in order to visit the lounge on the lower level of Vista House. Image taken October 11, 2004.
Image, 2004, Crown Point and Vista House, click to enlarge
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Crown Point and Vista House viaduct, Historic Columbia River Highway. Image taken October 11, 2004.


Vista House History ...
The construction of Vista House was completed by Multnomah County, under the direction of John B. Yeon, Multnomah County roadmaster. Plans for the interior decorations were furnished by Samuel Lancaster. Total cost of the Vista House construction was approximately $100,000. The dedication of Vista House took place on May 5, 1918. Vista House was designed to be a place of refreshment and enjoyment of the Columbia Gorge. The octagonal building with its copper dome now houses a museum, gift shop and interpretive display of historic and geologic points of interest in the Gorge. The architect of the Vista House was Edgar Lazarus, brother to Emma Lazarus who wrote the poem of the Statue of Liberty. In 1974 Vista House was added to the National Register of Historic Places (Building #74001705). In the mid-2000s Vista House was rennovated and opened for visitors in the summer of 2005.

Early Images ...

Penny Postcard, Vista House, Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Crown Point and Vista House, Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Divided Back, "Crown Point and Vista House, Columbia River Highway, Oregon.". Oregon News Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #55. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Caption on back: "Vista House. Crown Point. Columbia River Highway. From Crown Point a view of the Columbia Gorge extending both east and west for a distance of 25 miles may be had."
Penny Postcard, Vista House, Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Vista House, Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Linen, Divided Back, "Vista House, Columbia River Highway, Oregon". Copyright 1918, Angelus Studio. Published by The Oregon News Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #45. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Vista House, Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Vista House, Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Linen, Divided Back, "Vista House, Columbia River Highway, Oregon". Postmarked August 1943. Copyright Angelus Studio. Card #859. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
The Crown Point Chalet is visible in upper right.


Historic Columbia River Highway ...
Crown Point was a centerpiece on the Historic Columbia River Highway. On June 6, 1916 at the Highway dedication, President Woodrow Wilson pushed a button in Washington D.C. and unfurled a flag at Crown Point. On the same day the ground was overturned, beginning construction of the world-famous Vista House.

[More Historic Columbia River Highway]
[More HCRH Route]

  • HMP 23.9 ... Vista House (1918)

  • Vista House (1918):   "This octagonal building was constructed of reinforced concrete covered with a sandstone masonry veneer. Much of the interior is covered in Alaskan marble. The building was designed as a public comfort station and memorial to Oregon pioneers. A noteworthy example of architecture influenced by the Jugendstil, or German new art movement, the design includes a visitor gallery, a roof top balcony, and basement rest rooms. It was isted in the National Register in 1974." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

    "The Vista House was designed by Portland architect, Edgar Lazarus, in a style closely related to the German Junendstill. The small reinforced concrete building was constructed in 1916-18, as an observatory and rest stop. It was dedicated in May 1918 to early Oregon pioneers. Samuel C. Lancaster conceived of the idea of an observation building at Crown Point. Crown Point was one of the two sites used for dedication of the Columbia River Highway on June 6, 1916. Vista House is listed in the National Register and has also been recorded for the Historic American Buildings Survey." [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]


Image, 2015, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Approaching Crown Point and Vista House, Historic Columbia River Highway. Image taken March 30, 2015.
Image, 2015, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Crown Point and Vista House, Historic Columbia River Highway. The Historic Highway curves to the left to circle around Vista House. Image taken March 30, 2015.


Vista House Dedication, May 5, 1918 ...
VISTA HOUSE DEDICATION:

"This monument to the early pioneers of Oregon was dedicated Sunday, May 5, 1918. The site of the costly and imposing structure is Crown Point, overlooking the Columbia River from one of the most sightly elevations of the Columbia Highway. The cost of the Vista House and its appurtenances has been about $100,000. Its hexagonal walls inside are inscribed with the names of McLoughlin, Lee, Whitman, Applegate, Lane, Nesmith, Deady and Bush. These names were recommended by Frederick V. Holman, president of the Oregon Historical Society, and George H. Himes, curator of that organization and secretary of the Oregon Pioneer Association.

Frank Branch Riley, of Portland, delivered the dedicatory address, and Frederick V. Holman, the response. John B. Yeon, of Portland, county roadmaster, under whose direction the highway and the Vista House were built, spoke of the difficulties that had to be overcome in the progress of the project. Others presented were Simon Benson, who had agreed to pay the cost of the structure should Multnomah County fail to do so; Philo Holbrook and A.A. Muck, county commissioners, under whose administration the structure was built; Henry L. Pittock, publisher of The Oregonian, founded in 1850, pioneer of 1853, and president of the Vista House Association which promoted the pioneer memorial plan. George L. Baker, mayor of Portland, made the presentations. A spectacular pageant of raising the flag, led by the Royal Rosarians, concluded the ceremonies.

The initial fund for the Vista House, $3,812.35, was raised by public contribution. The additional moneys have come from county taxation. Among the items detailed in the Portland Journal of May 5, 1918, were the following: Building, $70,787.74; rock wall, $9,297.71; grading and paving, $7,395.69; architect, $6,264.47; various, $2,976.96; total of foregoing items, $96,722.57. The architect is Edgar M. Lazarus."


Source:    Oregon Historical Quarterly, June 1918, vol.XIX, no.2, p.171-172.


Penny Postcard, Vista House Dedication, May 5, 1918
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Vista House Dedication, May 5, 1918.
Penny Postcard, White Border, Divided Back, "Vista House, Columbia River Highway, Oregon." Published by The Oregon News, Portland, Oregon. Card #17. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Caption on back: "Vista House, Columbia River Highway, Ore., Erected in 1917 at a cost of over $100,000. Finished on the inside with marble. Used for an Observatory and Comfort station. From this point one gets a beautiful view of the Columbia River for 25 to 40 miles.". The dedication of Vista House was May 5, 1918. Portland's Royal Rosarians can be seen dressed in white.
Penny Postcard, Vista House Dedication, May 5, 1918
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Vista House Dedication, May 5, 1918.
Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Divided Back, "Vista House', Columbia River Highway, Ore." Copyright Cross & Dimmitt. Card #405. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Outside ...
Vista House is considered "Art Nouveau" and is approximately 44 feet in diameter and 55 feet high. The foundation was crafted by Italian craftsmen in the Italian-style "dry masonry" technique, without use of cement or mortar. The outside of Vista House is faced with light gray sandstone and the roof is covered with glazed green tiles. The windows are made of amber-green opalescent art glass. Interior stairways lead to a observation walkway around the structure.

Image, 2004, Vista House, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Vista House, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken June 27, 2004.
Image, 2004, Vista House roof detail, click to enlarge
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Roof detail, Vista House, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken June 27, 2004.
Image, 2004, Vista House window detail, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Window detail, Vista House, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken June 27, 2004.


Inside ...
In 2006 with restoration done, Vista House was once again open to the public. The interior rotunda rises above the visitor showing off the windows and dome. Most of the interior of the rotunda is light cream and pink Kasota limestone. The windows are amber-green opalescent art glass. The inside of the rotunda dome and its supporting "ribs" are painted to simulate the marble and bronze originally planned for the building. Eight Native American faces (2 each of 4 different individuals) are atop the columns in the rotunda. These were cast in plaster and gilded. Their identity is unknown. Between these columns are carved stone memorials depicting native plants, and carved with a shield bearing the name of early Oregon pioneers. The floors and stairs in the rotunda and wainscoting in the basement are made of Tokeen Alaskan marble. Stairways lead up to a walk-around-look-at-the-view balcony or down to the sub-level which houses a small museum, gift shop, and restrooms.

Image, 2006, Inside Vista House, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Inside Vista House. Image taken October 21, 2006.
Image, 2006, Inside Vista House, click to enlarge
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Stone carving, with shield bearing the name "Applegate". Guilded plaster Indian head sculptures on corners. Image taken October 21, 2006.
Image, 2006, Inside Vista House, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Window, inside Vista House. Image taken October 21, 2006.
Image, 2006, Inside Vista House, click to enlarge
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Rotunda ceiling, inside Vista House. Image taken October 21, 2006.


Views of Vista House ...
Pullouts along Washington State Highway 14, west of the Cape Horn Viewpoint, provide spectacular views of Vista House and Crown Point. On the Oregon side great views of Vista House can be had from the next ridge downstream, Chanticleer Point, home of the Portland Women's Forum Scenic Viewpoint.

Image, 2005, Vista House from Washington State Highway 14, click to enlarge
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Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon, as seen from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken, June 19, 2005.
Image, 2005, Crown Point from Portland Woman's Forum Scenic View, click to enlarge
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Crown Point and Vista House. View from Portland's Woman Forum Scenic View (formerly Chanticleer Point). Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2006, Vista House from Chanticleer Point, click to enlarge
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Vista House from Chanticleer Point. Bonneville Dam complex is visible in the background. Image taken September 23, 2006.


Vista House, etc.

  • Crown Point Chalet and Gardner's Cafe ...
  • Early Images ...
  • Water Storage Tanks ...
  • Views from Vista House ...


Crown Point Chalet and Gardner's Cafe ...
At one time Vista House wasn't alone as the only structure located on Crown Point. On the hill to the south was the Crown Point Chalet and inbetween the Chalet and Vista House once stood Gardner's Cafe, also known as Johnson's Vista Cafe.
[More]

Penny Postcard, Crown Point, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Aerial, Crown Point on the Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Real Photo, "Vista House, Crown Point on Columbia River Highway". September 7, 1938 date written on back. Brubaker photo. Copyright Cross & Dimmitt. Card #507. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Aerial view showing Vista House, Gardner's Cafe and gas station, and the Crown Point Chalet.
Image, 2004, Vista House and Crown Point, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Vista House view from area of the former Gardner's Cafe, Crown Point, Oregon. Image taken June 27, 2004.


Early Images ...

Penny Postcard, Vista House, Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Vista House, Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Reprint, "Vista House at Crown Point, Columbia River Highway.". Wesley Andrews. Card #759. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Reprint caption on back say "Vista House at Crown Point, 1927". Reprint by Stephen Kenney, Jr., 1998, SK#100.


Water Storage Tanks ...
[More Historic Columbia River Highway]
[More HCRH Route]

  • Storage Tanks (1915):   "In June [1915] ... the Rooster Rock Water Company completed a 4-inch line from its spring near Rooster Rock and piped water to Columbia Heights. Water from this spring, piped to storage tanks above Crown Point, provided water for the Vista House and other facilities at the Point. (These tanks are still visible from the highway.)" [Mershon, 2006, "The Columbia River Highway", p.88]

Image, 2015, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Water storage tanks west of Crown Point, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken April 10, 2015.
Image, 2015, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Water storage tanks west of Crown Point, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken April 10, 2015.


Views from Vista House ...
Good views of the Columbia River can be seen from Crown Point and Vista House. Upstream views include Rooster Rock and Rooster Rock State Park, Shepperds Dell, Youngs Creek, Sand Island, Dalton Point, Beacon Rock, and Cape Horn and Phoca Rock. Across the Columbia is Steigerwald Lake and Point Vancouver. Downstream views include Reed Island, Cottonwood Beach, and Tunnel Point. Off in the distance is Washougal, Washington.

[Views]


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards", with the "Penny Postcard" being a popular way to send greetings to family and friends. Today the Penny Postcard has become a snapshot of history.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 2, 1805 ...




Columbia River GorgeReturn to
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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:    See Crown Point;   

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
/Regions/Places/vista_house.html
July 2014