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The Crown Jewel of the Columbia Gorge

October 27, 2013

Visiting the Columbia Gorge isn’t complete without a trip to the Vista House on the summit of Crown Point, a cliff overlooking the Columbia River. The octagonal building stands like a beacon over the gorge, attracting visitors from around the world, who stop to take in the views of the 12-plus-million-year-old gorge from the three-story structure.

The house wasn’t always heralded as a destination spot, though.

Construction on the house started in 1916, when work was being done on the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway, with the goal of creating a place of rest and restoration. It was originally estimated to cost  $17,000, but state funds weren’t available to pay for the construction, so the public was asked to contribute money. The public donated less than $4,000, which left it to Multnomah County to come up with the rest of the money.

The final tally of the building? $99,148.05.

On May 5, 1918, when the house was officially dedicated, many called it the state’s “$100,000 outhouse.”

Clearly, people were up in arms over how much it cost to build the marble and sandstone building, but few government entities would be able to build it for the same amount today — even adjusting for the cost of inflation. Based on inflation calculators, $100,000 in 1918 is the equivalent of $2.1 million today. I’d love to think that we could do it for that amount, but given that restoration of the building cost $4.5 million and spanned from 2001 to 2006, I highly doubt that would be possible.

Today, people have learned to appreciate the beauty of the house. Sitting 733 feet above the Columbia River, the views from Vista House are truly awe-inspiring.

Vista Close

Vista House

Vista Windows

One of the windows in Vista House

CP 2

View from the balcony of Vista House

CP 5

Vista House from the nearby Pioneer Women’s Forum

CP 4

And another view …

CP 6

And another … what’s not to love about this?

CP 9a

I love taking photos of the house from different points in Pioneer Women’s Forum because each one opens up new breathtaking views.

CP 9b

From → Random Beauty

2 Comments
  1. Great photos especially of the exterior of Vista House! I had no idea existed until we came upon it on our way to Multnomah falls last year. It was one of my favorite stops on our trip!

    • Thank you! It can be really hard to get great photos of it (unless you have an amazing lens and tripod), but it is beautiful to see and experience. You’re not the only one who just happens upon it. Multnomah Falls is the top attraction in the state, but people see it and gave to make the detour.

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