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City of Astoria and Friends of the Astoria Column announce joint venture to restore and preserve Astoria Column this summer

In a continued effort to protect, preserve and restore the Astoria Column, the City of Astoria and nonprofit Friends of Astoria Column announce a joint venture to ensure the national landmark remains an enduring symbol of the pride, resolve and fortitude of the people who settled the Pacific Northwest. In April, the Astoria City council approved plans presented by Friends of Astoria Column—which was founded in 1988 to provide ongoing preservation, stewardship and public education—for intensive restoration to maintain the structural integrity and preserve the historic murals ultimately ensuring the survival of this cultural asset for decades to come. The project is now underway through September 2015.

“The Astoria Column depicts the visual history of our community and is a must-see for visitors to Astoria—we appreciate the work and dedication of Friends of Astoria Column without whom we could not afford this important restoration. We are so grateful for their efforts,” says Astoria Mayor Arline LaMear.

Since 1926 the Astoria Column has stood tall atop Coxcomb Hill as the ‘crowning monument’ in a series of 12 historical markers constructed between St. Paul, Minnesota and Astoria, Oregon to celebrate early American settlers for their role in expanding the country to the Pacific Coast. The icon was constructed 600 feet above sea level which exposes it to punishing environmental conditions, gale-force winds and rain that inflict wear on the structure and artwork and require periodic restorative upkeep.

The restoration, which is expected to cost approximately $1 million, is being funded by The Friends, private donations, events and grants with no cost to the City. The nonprofit contracted with international expert art conservationist, Marie Laibinis of MCL Conservation, LLC of Portland with the assistance of two managers from Astoria and scenic artists from the Seattle Opera. The structural evaluation has been performed by Wiss Janney Elstner Associates, Inc.

Due to unforeseen weather-related structural damage found during the survey and assessment, the cupola will be completely waterproofed during the restoration and the Column will be closed to the general public through September for safety purposes while all construction takes place. The Column grounds, however, will remain open during the entire restoration project.

There will be numerous public events and ongoing information to celebrate the Column and provide updates and entertainment for visitors. A 4th of July Celebration and Fundraiser will be held this weekend on the Column grounds with BBQ, entertainment and local vendors.

“The restoration team is doing a wonderful job evaluating and restoring the site. They have found the column to be in good condition for its age and maritime location,” says Angela Cosby, Astoria Parks and Recreation Director. “To properly complete the restoration and allow another 20-30 years until the next restoration, we need to keep the environment protected from the elements throughout the entire restoration process.”

While more than $500,000 has been raised to date by The Friends of Astoria Column through private donors and regional events, the organization plans to launch a capital campaign inviting Astoria residents, visitors and all Oregonians to ‘Join the Crew’ in the caretaking of this historic treasure. Donors can make contributions of any size online at www.astoriacolumn.org, directly at the Column Gift Shop or via mail The Friends of Astoria Column, PO Box 717, Astoria, OR 97103.

“For over 28 years, the Friends of Astoria Column has helped maintain the Column.  The last major restoration of the Column was over 20 years ago and now it needs a ‘freshening up!’” said Jordan D. Schnitzer, Co-Founder and President of the Friends of Astoria Column. “The Friends continue to help the City of Astoria save money by our maintaining not just the Column but the larger Column site and we are excited about this latest restoration project.  Whether it is a dollar or many more, please help us fund this restoration!”

The 2015 Astoria Column Restoration Project began May 26th and continues through the summer and includes the following steps:

  • Structural evaluation identifying repairs to the vertical cracks, observation deck and cupola pending repair specifications recommended by the engineering firm;
  • Documentation by photographs and graphic mapping of the murals condition and identifying the existing 1926 and 1936 original mural by Pusterla;
  • Cleaning the exterior surfaces and restoring the murals;
  • Landscape and plaza improvements;
  • Installation of energy-efficient LED lighting.

“It’s a great privilege to return to the Astoria Column after having worked on the 1995 restoration; and working with both John Goodenberger and Aretta Christie, who were also part of the 1995 team,” says Marie Laibinis, internationally recognized expert in conservation of art and cultural objects and Project Director and Conservator for the 2015 Astoria Column Restoration Project. “The monument is revealing to us the current repairs it needs and the care and maintenance it requires for its future preservation.”

The 125 foot tall Astoria Column is among the most visited parks in the state of Oregon, and is one of the city’s most-visited attractions: While the city of Astoria is home to approximately 10,000 people, it is estimated that more than 400,000 visit the Astoria Column each year. Modeled after the Trajan Column in Rome, the Astoria Column features a hand-painted spiral frieze that would stretch more than 500 feet if unwound. The monument was dedicated in 1926, and has undergone several restorations.

The most recent major art restoration of the Column was completed in 1995. Additional improvements to the grounds were completed in 2004, and the structure’s spiral staircase was replaced in 2008. The projects, totaling over $3.5 million were funded exclusively by The Friends of Astoria Column, except for the joint venture between the city and Friends to replace the original 164-step spiral staircase in 2008.

About the Astoria Column

The Astoria Column is a ‘crowning monument’ in a series of 12 historical markers constructed between St. Paul, Minnesota and Astoria, Oregon to celebrate early settlers for their role in expanding the United States to the Pacific Coast. The markers were the pet project of Ralph Budd, who was president of the Great Northern Railroad at the time. With funding for the project from New York philanthropist Vincent Astor—great-grandson of businessman John Jacob Astor, whose Pacific Fur Company settled in Astoria in the early 1800s—and the expertise of architect Electus Litchfield and artist Attilio Pusterla, the Astoria Column commemorates the historic events that transpired at the mouth of the Columbia River. The 125 foot tall national landmark was completed in 1926 and today welcomes more than 400,000 visitors a year. For more facts on the Column, visit www.AstoriaColumn.org.

About Friends of Astoria Column

Friends of Astoria Column, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preservation, stewardship and public awareness related to the Astoria Column. The group was formed in 1988 to raise funds for and oversee the Column’s first full art restoration, an endeavor totaling approximately $1 million and completed in 1995. In 2004, the Friends raised funds for and managed a subsequent restoration totally $2 million, to include a new ADA-accessible granite plaza with benches, landscaping, night lighting and bollards. The group, with the City of Astoria, raised $600,000 in 2008 to replace the original 164-step spiral staircase. The Astoria Column Restoration Project 2015 is now underway.

For more information, contact:

Claudia Johnson, 503-799-2220, claudia@claudiajohnson.com