The Phallus has Been Lit!!
The Astoria Column now has floodlights trained on it all night long. Where's Ed Abbey when you need him?
Monday, July 12, 2004
'It's the soul of Astoria - it's precious'
By SANDRA SWAIN
The Daily Astorian
LORI ASSA — The Daily Astorian
"I'm just so pleased that it's all come together," says Mary Oberst, who attended the Column ceremony on behalf of her husband, Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
Dignitaries, residents and visitors cheer completion of Column projects
For 78 years, the Astoria Column looked awesome from afar during the daytime, but after dark it would disappear from view.
Not any more.
From now on, the Column will shine from atop Coxcomb Hill every night from dawn to dusk, like the Astoria version of Seattle's Space Needle, thanks to a $40,000 exterior lighting system that was turned on for the first time at 10 p.m. Saturday.
A cannon blast and cheers from supporters viewing the display from the Hotel Elliott marked the occasion.
The new lighting will definitely increase the Column's "wow" factor. Roger Rocka, executive director of the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, was enthused.
"It has a double attraction - the Column itself and the history associated with it - and the incredible view, "he said. "When people drive up they almost all say the same two words, 'Oh, wow'. You hear that over and over again."
The lights are part of a $1.5 million improvement project celebrated Saturday at a daylong community event that included music and refreshments, and remarks by Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen, Jordan Schnitzer, president of Friends of Astoria Column Inc., state Sen. Joan Dukes, and Mary Oberst, standing in for her husband, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who was attending the funeral of a young man from Hermiston who was killed in Iraq.
The celebration culminated in a ribbon cutting ceremony at noon, formally dedicating a new 5,500-square foot plaza, paved with 5,000 granite pavers. The plaza is reached by a broad, gently sloping handicapped-accessible pathway that replaces the old concrete steps and walkway leading to the entrance of the Column.
Other improvements include weather-proofing the Column, a seismic upgrade of its foundation, underground electrical conduits and an irrigation system. It now complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the circular drive around the Column has been widened to add angled parking spaces.
"I'm so excited to have the Column restored," said Oberst. "I think it not only improves this corner of the state, but it makes this part of Oregon special for all of us.
"My first visit was before the Column was restored," she said. "I felt as though I were looking at the hieroglyphs before the Rosetta Stone was discovered. I knew there was something really important up there but I couldn't decipher what it was. Now that I see what was up there, I'm stunned. It's beautiful, it's history, it's Astoria. And I'm just so pleased that it's all come together."
"This is the culmination of six more years of work on the Column," said Schnitzer, who has been president of the Friends for 17 years. He said it all started with support from former mayor Edith Henningsgaard-Miller, and he thanked Van Dusen for donating his entire salary as mayor for 14 years, more than $10,000, toward improving the Column.
"I think our mission to make it look like it was something that was here originally is what we've accomplished. It's just a wonderful thing to be part of such a community and statewide effort," Schnitzer said.
Center on hold
Schnitzer said the Friends will put planning for a controversial interpretive center on hold for a couple of years, until after the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.
In the meantime, he said, the nonprofit group will focus on educational efforts with the theme, "Where history takes off." The Friends are also promoting a book written by Stephen Dow Beckham, a professor at Lewis and Clark College, with photographs by Robert M. Reynolds. Autographed first-edition copies were on sale at the dedication Saturday for $9.95.
"I'm ecstatic today," said Van Dusen. "The Column looks better than it's ever looked in its entire life. It's a beautiful day, a crowd is here and I wish I could thank each and every person that's made a private donation to the pavers and the benches and the steps and the Column. It's a real teamwork effort."
Van Dusen was especially happy about the pavers finally being engraved. Several years ago, many people had purchased bricks at $35 each to be engraved, but the bricks were never installed at the plaza because designers decided granite pavers, now selling for $100 each, would be more attractive and durable. All but 500 of the pavers have now been engraved.
While acknowledging that a lot of people who bought bricks were unhappy at the long delay, Van Dusen said he thinks it worked out for the best. And he said some of the early purchasers actually got a bargain. "They got two bricks - they got a paver up at the Column and they're going to get a regular brick on the pathway up here. We waited and we did it right. All's well that ends well."
"It's beautiful, like the frosting on the cake," said Sen. Dukes, D-Svensen. "This started out with just a dream and a little bit of money. It's beautiful and it's finally ADA accessible."
The restoration of the Column has taken much longer and been more expensive than anticipated. It started in 1985, when Edith Henningsgaard was Astoria's mayor and the city secured a federal grant.
"We appropriated $75,000 thinking that would take care of the whole thing," said Henningsgaard-Miller. She said she's "delighted" at the way the Column has turned out, and has purchased a bench and 20 engraved pavers. Ten of the pavers are for her grandchildren.
After the speeches were over, it was time for the official ribbon cutting ceremony. Using a big pair of scissors presented by members of the 2004 Astoria Regatta Court, Henningsgaard-Miller cut the first segment of the blue ribbon at the entrance to the plaza; Oberst cut the second segment; and Schnitzer and Van Dusen, acting as a team, executed the final snip.
At that point, people rushed forward to find their pavers, using print-outs of the plaza that identified which of eight areas contained the paver with their name on it.
Eighty-three year old Clarence Dreyer ("the same as the ice cream, but we say it Drayer") and his wife, Myrtle, had found their engraved paver earlier. "When we came up, a guy was standing on it and we couldn't find it. But then he moved his feet and there it was," Dreyer said.
The Dreyers have lived in Astoria all their lives and were enjoying the celebration. "I think it's a lot of fun to see a lot of people you haven't seen for awhile," Clarence Dreyer said. They plan to buy another paver in memory of their daughter, who died in an accident at 19.
"We bought three pavers," said Pat Doney of Warrenton. "One for my husband, Sgt. Major Norman Doney, one for the two of us, and one for his brother."
The cost was worth it, she said, because they love the Column.
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