Step into the Columbia River Maritime Museum or the Flavel House Museum and it’ll hit you: Astoria’s history is as enormous as the halls that house it. Whether you’re new in town or a lifelong Astorian, both places are worth a trip during this quieter time.
Flavel House Museum
The magisterial qualities of Capt. George Flavel’s house only deepen once you enter.
And if you’re a local who has heard the stories, seen the Flavel’s other former home on 15th Street and Franklin Avenue, know a little bit about Mary Louise and Harry Flavel, and want to learn more about their family, this is a good place to start.
Walking through the home can feel like entering the set of an Alfred Hitchcock film. You can see the ornate music room, formal parlor, dining room, kitchen and some of the family’s bedrooms on the second floor.
With large, floor to ceiling windows, giant pocket doors and rooms so well-preserved with the furniture, paintings, musical instruments and photographs of the day, you would expect the Flavel’s to walk into the house at any moment.
The stately home and highly manicured lawn are maintained by the Clatsop County Historical Society. It is open daily for tours. A short film inside the Carriage House is worth watching to learn about Flavel, a Columbia River bar pilot and an entrepreneur, his children’s musical talents and the family’s trips to San Francisco and how the house was built.
The house, a Victorian Queen Anne style home, was completed in 1886. The Carriage House next to it was finished in 1887. The exterior of the house features a wraparound porch, decorative ornamental work above the windows and patterned shingles. A three-story octagonal tower looms large over the house and allowed Flavel a view of boats in the Columbia River.
Columbia River Maritime Museum
Like the Flavel house, the Columbia River Maritime Museum holds many treasures.
Meshed in with the legacy of the U.S. Coast Guard on the North Coast and the perils of the Columbia River Bar is the story of Astoria’s place in the Pacific Northwest.
The museum traces explorers’ travels to the Northwest, Astoria’s maritime history, immigrants, fur trading and John Jacob Astor’s role in it, the Chinook Nation, mapping the Pacific Coast, nautical terms and equipment, whaling, canneries and gillnetting.
The museum, housed in a building shaped like a wave, is full of helpful wall text and artifacts, maps, models of boats (and large, real boats) interactive exhibits, a 3D movie theater and hurricane simulator.
Sounds of waves crashing and Coast Guard crews performing rescues on the Columbia River show the immediacy of life on the river.
Staff recommend allowing for two hours to visit the museum.