Astoria, Ore., is called 'Little San Francisco' for a reason – several reasons, actually

'Little San Francisco' on the Columbia River has made an amazing comeback from its fishing and lumber days.

Written by Susan Spano / Published by The LA Times

The view of Astoria, Ore., from the lovingly restored Astoria Column on Coxcomb Hill. The old fishing and lumber town on the Columbia River has made an incredible comeback.

Astoria, Ore., is tucked near the mouth of the mighty Columbia River where Lewis and Clark came to a weary halt in view of the Pacific Ocean. Fortunes made from fishing and lumber mills lined the town's hilly streets with Victorian flights of fancy, thus the sobriquet "Little San Francisco." The paint started peeling when the salmon gave out in the 1960s, but Astoria made a stunning comeback, starting with the construction of a 4-mile-long bridge that crosses the river to Washington state. The chandeliers were polished at its vintage 1920s Liberty Theater, now the heart of a thriving downtown filled with shops, galleries, martini bars and craft breweries; loving restoration secured the Astoria Column on Coxcomb Hill; and four small museums operated by the Clatsop County Historical Society tell wild stories about Astoria's 19th century red-light district. Then there's the smashing Columbia River Maritime Museum, a paean to boats, from Native American canoes to Coast Guard life savers, and to the intrepid captains and crews.

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