There is no shortage of locations and sights in this coastal region with historic significance that visitors can experience. The wreck of the Peter Iredale, the WWII-era bunkers at Fort Stevens, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, the Flavel House and the Doughboy Monument are among the most well-known sites.
But what about less famous sites like the wreck of the T.J. Potter, or the old quarantine station across the Columbia River, or the memorial to Chief Comcomly? These and others are just as accessible and, like the more prominent sites, have a story to tell about the rich history of the region.
Chief Comcomly Memorial
Many visitors will likely make their way to the top of a hill in Astoria to see a big column, and rightfully so. But before you leave, nearby is another monument that deserves attention. The memorial to Chinook nation Chief Comcomly was erected in 1961 as a replica of a burial canoe. Overlooking Youngs Bay, the memorial serves as a reminder of an influential Native American leader who was known as a skilled navigator of the Columbia River and a negotiator with early Euro-American explorers.
Red brick streets for horse-drawn vehicles
On Franklin Avenue in Astoria, between 13th and 14th streets, red bricks can be seen down the middle of the street — an artifact some historians believe represented a compromise between horse-drawn vehicles and automobiles. It is said the horses used the brick while cars drove on either side, according to local historian John Goodenberger. On the parking curb, right of center from the Masonic Temple, is a horse ring where people tied the reins of horses. Other horse rings remain in front of Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe and Fort George Brewery, and to the side of the courthouse on Eighth Street.
Remains of the T.J. Potter
The wreck of the T.J. Potter may not be as dramatic as the Peter Iredale. There isn’t much left of what was one of the first paddle steamers to operate on the Columbia River. In fact, at high tide, what is left is covered up by the waters of Youngs Bay on the Astoria side, not far from the New Youngs Bay Bridge. The ship transported passengers from Astoria and Ilwaco to Portland until 1916 and was abandoned at its current location in 1920 where little remains. But when the tide is low and conditions are right, you might get lucky and catch a glimpse of a ship known for her speed and luxury.
In June of 1942, an Imperial Japanese submarine surfaced at the mouth of the Columbia River and fired on Fort Stevens, causing little damage. It would end up being only one of two attacks on the continental U.S. by an Axis Power during the war. And while the story is memorialized at Fort Stevens State Park, nearby is a lesser-known memorial to the event near where the shells from the sub are thought to have struck the coast. Tucked away just off Delaura Beach Lane near Warrenton is a small monument to the event, and just a little farther down the road is a replica of a shell supposedly located near an impact crater.
Knappton Cove Heritage Center
Beginning in 1899, an abandoned cannery site across the Columbia River from Astoria was chosen to house a medical facility to isolate people arriving in the area who may have been exposed to infectious diseases. The Columbia River Quarantine Station operated until 1938, and the site still exists today just off Washington State Route 401 near the abandoned town of Knappton. According to the Knappton Cove Heritage Center, approximately 100,000 immigrants and crew members of ships were inspected for disease at the site known as the Ellis Island of the Columbia River.