Thursday, October 29, 2015

Vista House

Along the Columbia River

I can't tell you how thrilled I am that this iconic little jewel has been renovated to its original splendor.  Back in the 80's when I last saw it, it was boarded up--just a big blob of rock.  It was built in 1916 as a rest stop for travelers and an architectural gateway to the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge.  Its isolation, however, invited vandalism and predisposed it to neglect.

It sits 733 feet above the river on the summit of Crown Point on the Oregon side.  Its views of the gorge have always been breathtakingly beautiful and as the architect realized, this is the first overlook for many travelers along the historic Route 30.  Indeed, the Vista House graces many a poster, refrigerator magnet and travel brochure of the area.
Jump forward 100 years and it is once again a welcome rest stop for travelers.  Inside, you will find maps of the area, a coffee shop, a small museum, stairs leading to an observation deck,  clean restrooms(!) and a gift shop.  The architecture, however, is what I came for.  It truly is a jewel of a building with its stained glass windows that reflect the ripples of the water below and its simulated marble and bronze walls.  There are eight busts of Native Americans circling the rotunda.  It is a proper tribute to the region's history.

The exterior's gray sandstone mirrors the basalt cliffs of the gorge.  Telescopes are positioned outside for travelers to get their first magnified view of  the landscape, which in turn, will lure them further down the road.  And this is precisely what the architect envisioned.  Bravo, Oregon, for bringing this monument back to its original purpose and splendor.

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