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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Earth, Water, Fire, and Air

13th Street and Exchange Avenue, Astoria, Oregon - Astoria Fire of 1922 If you're driving on Exchange Avenue (on our right), this is just a quirky curve in an otherwise-straight street. But like everywhere else in Astoria, it also expresses a lot of history. In the center of the photo, you can see the entire block that comprises 13th Street. The street is about one or one and a half lots long. This is where the notorious early land owners and town planners John Shively and John McClure butted heads. They could not agree on the size of a standard lot, and the mismatched halves of the town can be seen fitting together here at 13th (you can read more about it in this post).

Here you can see what the downtown area is built on (pilings over what used to be water and mud). There's another photo of it here, and there are several more places in town where you can see the concrete-and-air underpinnings. I found a very interesting web page that describes the big fire of December 8, 1922. What allowed it to cause so much destruction (10 hours, 30 blocks, 15 million dollars) is that the downtown was built on wood pilings, and the air-space under the buildings and streets was not filled in. They could hardly have designed a better barbecue pit if they'd tried, but they must have learned the lesson, because the spaces are now baffled with concrete walls. Occasionally you'll see a car or two parked in the low area, but mostly it's empty.

Exchange Avenue marked the line between burned and spared buildings, at least here at 13th Street. Across Exchange Avenue on the right is the YMCA building built in 1914 and mentioned in the linked article. It "was opened as the headquarters of all welfare agencies," and I took photos of it which I'll post another day.

For those who want to see how many previous posts are contained in this photo, here's a list:

. Yesterday's blue post (out of sight on the corner behind the tree)
. Writing on the wall
. The pink building on the left
. Drain cover made in Oregon (about the center of the photo)
. The imposing Astor Hotel from the river side and from the landward side
. Behind where I'm standing to take the photo is a small hospice building. The railing you see in the photo continues alongside the building and is the site of this plaque commemorating Clark Gable's early acting career in the Astoria Theatre that burned down in the fire of 1922.


Vogon Poet said...

I'm quite proud to remember almost all these posts! My favorite was the 12th street to nowhere...

Jacob said...

Fascinating! And it is nice to know that sometimes city "fathers" learn from their mistakes!

Don and Krise said...

I remember most of these posts also. This is a city with some interesting history, including the two gentlemen that couldn't seem to see eye to eye. Great post Sheryl.

B SQUARED said...

Certainly a very different history from other places.

Midnight Mike said...

Astoria,probably the only town around that has a 13th Street as an alley!!

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