Pier 39 now houses other businesses and a small museum, but in its day it was the center of a well-known fish canning industry. The J.O. Hanthorn Cannery was originally built in 1875, although it has been renovated since. Before my time here (I moved to Astoria in 2001), the waterfront was the location of many working canneries. Sadly, all but this one are gone now.
"Anonymous" posted a comment correcting misinformation I had on this page. Based on something I found online or misread, I thought this cannery began life as Elmore and was changed to J.O. Hanthorn. Anonymous wrote: "Elmore Cannery was in Union Town-on the current site of Astoria Warehousing...the 39th street facility was called Hanthorne--When CRPA took it over it was used as a recieving station and cold storage for the CRPA, later called Bumble Bee, for imported fish from all over the world which were stored and then trucked down as needed for the canning operation at Elmore."
Thanks for this bit of history!
One of my favorite places for coffee in Astoria is Coffee Girl, one of the numerous businesses now located in the old building, with windows that face the river. You can sit at tables or benches on the back deck high above the water, or sit inside if the weather isn't so nice. They use the same counter where coffee was served to the women working the cannery in bygone years. The cannery building also has "executive office rentals and artists lofts." There are quite a number of suites as well as a small museum of the cannery days. Rogue Ale Public House is also in the old cannery building.
Check out the web site of Bumble Bee Seafoods, LLC for in-depth information on Bumble Bee and the canning industry in Astoria. Briefly, they say, "The history of Bumble Bee Seafoods can be traced to 1899, when seven canning companies along the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon, decided to unite their operations under the auspices of the newly incorporated Columbia River Packers Association (CRPA). Salmon fishers and canners had come to Astoria in the 1860s, when the Columbia River produced abundant salmon supplies. After the salmon supply peaked in the 1890s, the more than 50 businesses that had sprung up in the area began looking to Alaska for their catch of the ocean sockeye variety of salmon." Many fishing boats still ply between Astoria and Alaska, making the connection between the two very strong.
In the 1930s, it was found that tuna were plentiful off of Oregon's coast. By the end of the 1950s, the Bumble Bee brand was well known. The company began expanding nationally and internationally, and Astoria became less important in the fish canning industry as new fishing grounds were also exploited. In 1980, Astoria's Bumble Bee cannery closed. You can read more and see a few of the old canning labels here: http://www.canneryworker.org/. Then Visit History in Vogue for some old photos of the cannery and recent info about Pier 39.
The building may become busier as time goes by, but currently, I think most Astorians would say it was a pleasant and peaceful place to enjoy the scenery, take visiting friends, and have coffee, snacks, or a beer and burger. It's not crowded, and it still has as much of the old charm as you could want. In making the old building usable, they've left most of it very much intact. It's very picturesque, and various images from the building will appear on my blog in the future.
This is not a view of the pier you normally see. I took the photo from the adjacent jetty with a long lens.
Come see other entries in Scenic Sunday.