TO BUST

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Alex Pu­laski

AS­TO­RIA, Ore. — ounded a lit­tle over 200 years ago as Amer­ica’s first set­tle­ment in the West, this port city finds it­self buoyed th­ese days by a tourist-fu­eled re­vival.

Yet his­tory lingers here, pal­pa­ble and pow­er­ful, just a two-hour drive from the state’s metropoli­tan cen­ter of Port­land.

At the apex of Cox­comb Hill, the mu­ral­wrapped As­to­ria Col­umn traces the area’s evo­lu­tion, from Capt. Robert Gray’s 1792 dis­cov­ery of the Columbia River (named for his ship, the Columbia Re­di­viva) to the Lewis and Clark Ex­pe­di­tion to the rail­road’s ar­rival in the late 1800s.

At the Columbia River Mar­itime Mu­seum, vivid ex­hibits paint a cy­cle of risk and re­ward. The river’s vi­o­lent col­li­sion with the ocean at the Columbia River Bar spins a con­stant tale of de­struc­tion and death — some 2,000 ves­sels and 700 lives later, it’s known as “the grave­yard of the Pa­cific.”

A re­minder of the long-gone As­to­ria trad­ing post sur­vives in a green-paint street out­line. A mon­u­ment stands there, but the city’s econ­omy has moved along: a thriv­ing bak­ery/cafe and a pop­u­lar brew­ery on the site sig­nal com­merce’s turn to­ward tourism.

Brightly painted Vic­to­rian homes beckon from the hill­sides. Down­town, a bit of

FAmer­i­cana lives on in the form of spice shops, a butcher shop, book­stores and Gimre’s Shoes, which opened in 1892 and is be­lieved to be the old­est fam­ily-run shoe store in the West. Parks, beach and the wa­ter­front are em­i­nently ex­plorable on foot or bike.

Back in the early 1800s, af­ter Lewis and Clark win­tered near here, a Ger­man im­mi­grant named John Ja­cob As­tor en­vi­sioned this con­flu­ence of the Columbia and the Pa­cific as the hub of an in­ter­na­tional trad­ing em­pire. From his home in New York, As­tor ac­crued a for­tune in real es­tate and trad­ing an­i­mal furs — soft gold. But his dream for the city that ul­ti­mately bore his name was never re­al­ized, in large part be­cause of bad tim­ing: War broke out in 1812 be­tween Eng­land and

ALEX PU­LASKI/PHO­TOS FOR THE CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

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