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Past perfect: Astoria’s bed & breakfasts

The inns connect the comfort of home and history with peace and simplicity

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Benjamin Young Inn

The Benjamin Young Inn Bed & Breakfast is located in an 1888 Queen Anne Victorian home that overlooks the Columbia River.

 

Astoria has a long and storied history from the Clatsop and Chinook nations who thrived here for thousands of years to modern day adventurers. In 1792, American sea merchant Capt. Robert Gray sailed his ship, the Columbia Rediviva, into the bay at the mouth of the Columbia River, starting what would be a wide-ranging succession of seekers.

Capt. Meriwether Lewis, Capt. William Clark and the Corps of Discovery would come to explore and announce the myriad riches and opportunities, leading the way in 1811 for John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Co. to officially establish the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.

Astor’s fur trade went bust. From 1813 to 1818, Astoria became Fort George under British rule. In the mid-1800s, an influx of Scandinavian settlers arrived seeking fortunes from the abundant resources of fishing and timber, catapulting the lowly outpost into a shipping and fisheries hub. With a majority of itinerant men, liquor flowed and houses of ill repute flourished. In 1878, The Weekly Astorian noted there were 30 saloons in town and Astoria earned the reputation as the “wickedest city in the world.”

By the late 1880s, however, thanks to booming timber and fishing economies, Astoria was no longer a rough and grubby frontier town. Downtown was experiencing new civility. Ship captains, timber barons, cannery moguls and bankers all sought to display their wealth. As downtown grew, splendid Victorian homes began dotting the hillsides.

Today, hundreds of those elaborate homes are still intact. Our Coast has rounded up a few of Astoria’s bed and breakfasts for those who relish the idea of slowing down and escaping back in time for a taste of gracious living, 19th- and early 20th-century style. The inns all have Wi-Fi and private baths, along with amenities such as games, puzzles, books, historic material, maps, brochures and generous innkeepers ready to advise on ideas for adventures.

Benjamin Young Inn Bed & Breakfast

3652 Duane St., Astoria • 503-325-6172 • benjaminyounginn.com

This stately 1888 Queen Anne Victorian house overlooks the Columbia River like a steadfast sentinel. Like many of his fellow emigrants from Scandinavia, “Salmon King” Benjamin Young made a fortune in the fish canning business and leveraged those enterprises into banking and land holdings. The spacious home and carriage house are on the National Register of Historic Places. Longtime innkeeper Carolyn Hammer has made certain its elegant antique furnishings are in harmony with its 19th century heritage. After 27 years of ownership, Hammer has handed over the reins to her grandson, Lorin Anderson, and his wife, Emma. Hammer still maintains a residence on the first floor. Renovations are underway on the third floor for Lorin and Emma to live on-site.

Benjamin Young Inn

Benjamin Young Inn set their tables with classic plates, cloth napkins and crystal glasses. 

“It’s so quiet and beautiful here,” said Hammer’s daughter, Holly Anderson, who fills in occasionally for Lorin and Emma. “All rooms, except Dorothy’s, have Columbia River views, and Lady Anne has the distinction of overlooking ‘The Goonies’ house. Every day people still walk by to take a look at the famous house featured in the 1985 movie. It’s amazing.”

“If you like the chorus of sea lions, you’ll like the full river-facing Rose Room,” Hammer added. “If you don’t, well, we do offer earplugs.”

Benjamin Young Inn

The Rose Room in the Benjamin Young Inn has views of the river.

The inn still serves a gourmet breakfast.

“French toast or eggs Benedict are favorites, although we no longer have everyone at the communal table,” Hammer said. “Luckily, the communal spaces are large and airy, making social distancing easy. We’re looking forward to better times when people can come share this wonderful home.”

Clementine's

Clementine's Bed & Breakfast features view of the Flavel House Museum and Columbia River. 

Clementine's Bed & Breakfast

847 Exchange St., Astoria • 503-325-2005 • clementines-bb.com

Also built in 1888, the colorful Italianate-style, renovated and eclectically furnished Clementine’s overlooks the historic Flavel House Museum and Columbia River.

“Doing a bed and breakfast was my husband’s idea,” said owner Judith Taylor. “Maybe he wanted to keep me busy. Well, that turned out. He bought the historic structure next door and then we just fell in love with what is now Clementine’s.”

The original owners were William and Clementine Ross.

“I thought ‘Clementine’ was such a perfectly Victorian name for the house,” Taylor said.

Every room is equipped with a Keurig coffee maker and the parlor has been converted into a hospitality room available to guests with a refrigerator, microwave and other amenities, such as coffee, tea, hot chocolate, wine glasses, bottle openers and utensils.

“It’s so hard that I can’t serve breakfasts to guests now,” Taylor said. “I love providing gourmet dishes and my homemade muffins and scones.”

According to the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places, the Job Ross House was built about 1860, where the Ross family lived for nearly 40 years. Used as a family home, and later, as various meeting spaces, The Loyal Order of the Moose occupied the lodge from 1925 to 1948, after which it became a meeting space for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 1950 to 1966.

“The lodge is divided into two safe and confined spaces, perfect for larger parties where you won’t be running into anyone else,” Taylor said. “Each suite has a fully equipped kitchen and can accommodate up to six people. And pets.”

The loft suites are furnished with an assorted collection of cottage-style items and quaint oddities. The split-level second loft main floor has an intimate garden and cozy sitting area with a gas fireplace.

“It’s been hard competing with Airbnbs and COVID too,” Taylor said. “I’m a people person and I really miss the fun of it, meeting new people, and hearing their stories. It all adds to the diversity of life. The folks who gravitate to bed and breakfasts are looking for something different, something with character, something with a story. And that’s why we’re here.”

Grandview

The Grandview Bed & Breakfast was designed by Andrew Ferguson in the 1880s. 

Grandview Bed & Breakfast

1574 Grand Ave., Astoria • 503-325-0000 • grandviewbedandbreakfast.com

Charleen Maxwell, armed with a dream and a full pension, made the plunge and purchased cannery baron Eban W. Tallant’s Victorian era home in 1987. Architect Andrew Ferguson designed the extravagant 1880s home featuring a bullet turret, inset balconies, an open staircase, bay windows and a cupola tower. The home was enlisted to house soldiers during World War II and later was divided into eight separate apartments, a configuration that remained until Charleen took ownership.

“I thought mom was totally out of left field,” said Loreen Maxwell, who joined her mother in 2011. “She bought a Victorian home and planned to move from Southern California to Astoria, Oregon, and open a bed and breakfast?”

“What a project, converting the house back to a cohesive home. The one good thing, though: already a bathroom in every room.”

“I never imagined living in Oregon, or managing an inn, but after I retired, I helped mom on the house and met so many friendly people in town, I felt I belonged here,” she added.

Grandview still serves breakfasts and has plenty of space to distance tables. Both Loreen and Charleen live on-site. Five guest rooms are available on the upper floors, some of which connect into suites.

“We’ve had only a few return guests since COVID,” Loreen said. “Some people just want to enjoy their rooms and look out windows, watch deer in the backyard, watch the river and ships, or gaze at sunsets. One of our guests said it’s like living in a castle. Especially the third floor gazebo room with its balcony and tower. The breathtaking view of the river from Tongue Point and town, past the bridge, all the way to the bar makes you feel like you own the world.”

She said the other favorite is the intimate turret space where they serve breakfast for two.

Grandview does not have a strong website presence because both Charleen and Loreen like to be free to offer special discounts and to engage with their guests by phone before booking.

“We like people to know our quirks, like no cable TV and no alcohol in the house,” Loreen said. “That way, no surprises. We want our guests to feel at peace here, relaxed and comfortable. This is our home. People sense that. I miss the variety of interesting visitors, and you know what I miss most? Hugs from departing guests. People like to hug.”

Crosby House Bed & Breakfast

364 Bond St., Astoria • 503-325-4922 • crosbyhousebnb.com

The Crosby House Bed & Breakfast occupies one of the oldest homes in town. Constructed in 1880 for Magnus C. Crosby, the house is located in what was once considered the shadier part of Astoria between Uniontown and “Swilltown.” This lower part of town, adjacent to the waterfront and Union Cannery, was known for harboring seedy characters, near boarding houses, bordellos, opium dens and a prime location for unsuspecting men to be shanghaied into seafaring servitude. Crosby probably wasn’t a disreputable sort, since he served as mayor of Astoria for two terms and owned a Commercial Street hardware store and the “Little Tin Shop on the Corner” jobbing out tin, sheet iron and copper work, plumbing and steam fitting. He may have chosen his house location for convenience — a block away from fire department Hook and Ladder #1, where he served as president.

Ken and Teresa Mittelbuscher bought the property in 2002 and made the move from Eureka, California, to Astoria in 2012.

“We wanted a change,” said Teresa, who retired from the California Department of Corrections, and mused, “Yes, quite a leap from prison guard to innkeeper.”

She said it took them two years to remodel the home to have three bedrooms with bathrooms ready for guests. “From the start, I planned for winters off. I don’t want to work so hard. After all, I am retired,” Teresa said. “We usually would head somewhere warm January to April, but, well, this year ...

“I look forward to ... visits with all the fascinating people who come this way. Our covered deck overlooks the river and we never tire of watching the ships and activity on the waterfront. Ken is captivated with Astoria’s history and loved being a (Astoria) Riverfront Trolley conductor. We’re amazed at how welcoming the town has been. Quite a place, this Astoria.”

Rose River

The Rose River Inn is just blocks from Fort George Brewery and has views of the Columbia River. 

Rose River Inn Bed & Breakfast

1510 Franklin Ave., Astoria • 503-325-7175 • roseriverinn.com

“It seemed the thing to do,” said Pam Armstrong, who, with her husband, David, found fish packing mogul, S. Schmidt’s 1912 craftsman beauty 18 years ago. “We wanted a change in careers and wanted to live in an older home and were hooked on the idea of starting a bed and breakfast. We looked for houses in Vermont and New Hampshire, but a neighbor, who was from Seattle, suggested the Northwest.”

The couple came to Astoria, liked the town and loved the house (an already established inn). “It was very pink at the time,” Pam said.

“The location was perfect. That view. And just a block from Fort George Brewery, and easy walking distance to the (Astoria) Riverwalk and everything in town.”

When they started the venture, they thought most of their visitors would be older, Pam said. She was surprised at the number of young people gravitating to a bed and breakfast.

“Like everyone else, we’ve had to adjust to the decline in visitors, but we’re lucky to have repeat guests. Our five guest rooms are open and our dining room is large enough to accommodate separate tables, so I can still serve breakfast,” Pam said. (A guest favorite is Pam’s chile rellenos with homemade guacamole and chips and salsa.)

Visitors gravitate to the deck and garden, overlooking a small park with a monument commemorating the first post office west of the Rocky Mountains.

In keeping with the craftsman style, Pam prefers more basic vintage furnishings rather than the ornate frills associated with the earlier eras.

“I like everything to be homey,” she said. “I want guests to enjoy the quiet and feel the comfort of home here.”

Near the Pier

One of the rooms at the Near the Pier Boutique Hotel.

Near the Pier Boutique Hotel

1140 Franklin Ave., Astoria • 971-248-0186 • nearthepier.com

“This is really exciting and fun,” said new owner, Candy Yiu, exclaiming about renovations to the former Franklin Street Station bed and breakfast.

“We bought it in March 2020,” Yiu said, recalling that her dream project wouldn’t move forward as she’d planned with the onset of coronavirus restrictions. “I just hunkered down and carried on, shopping and dreaming and planning, and running after my two little boys. Because of them, and knowing how challenging it is to travel with little ones — all that extra stuff you have to drag around — I knew I wanted to create a family-friendly place.”

Ship builder Ferdinand Fisher constructed the Victorian home for his son, Earl, in 1900. The home had been converted into Franklin Street Station in 1986 and was one of Astoria’s premier bed and breakfasts for nearly 40 years.

“Since my 20s, I knew I wanted to create a homey environment where guests could enjoy the company of others like in a hostel. Unlike a hostel though, I wanted some privacy. I didn’t know about bed and breakfasts,” said Yiu, who grew up in Hong Kong but traveled extensively abroad staying in hostels and traditional hotels. “When I saw this house, I fell in love, not only with its ornate beauty, but with the idea that this could be what I’d always dreamed of.

“I want people to really enjoy the views and feel the history, this special place — the ships and the fishing culture, the river and ocean. I want a quiet place where they can put away their technology and phones and soak in the pure pleasure of being somewhere else. It’s funny, since my whole adult life has been technology (Yiu has a doctorate in wireless communications and just recently left her job at Intel).”

Near the Pier

Near the Pier features a clawfoot bath tub. 

Yiu’s antique decor epitomizes a more luxurious time, yet each of the four rooms has modern conveniences such as Wi-Fi, ensuites, mini fridges and microwaves. There is no cable TV but there is a huge collection of DVDs.

Besides the four rooms, there are two family suites with kitchenettes and the adorable (sound-proofed) kid-friendly rooms have toys and books, one with a tree house bed and another featuring a slide and a train bed. The kid rooms are connected, yet separate, so parents can relax in their own haven, with even a small private patio in the tree house suite.

“The people and their commitment to Astoria’s history is awe-inspiring,” Yiu said. “Just walking around the neighborhood gazing at the wonderful restorations is amazing. I am in love with this town and I hope everyone who comes here will be, too.”

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