Column closed for repairs through summer
ASTORIA — The Astoria Column will not open by the Fourth of July after all.
The city had hoped the popular landmark, which was closed in June for a $1 million restoration project, would reopen to visitors in time for the holiday weekend.
But the city has chosen to keep the column closed to the public through September for construction and safety reasons.
While visitors will not be able to enter the column or climb the 164-step spiral staircase to the viewing platform, the park grounds at Coxcomb Hill, which offer panoramic views of Astoria, will remain open.
A Fourth of July party and fundraiser will be held at the park Saturday.
Mayor Arline LaMear, who toured the column last week with Brad Johnston, the police chief and assistant city manager, and Angela Cosby, the city's parks director, said she was "really floored by the amount of damage that there is. I just wasn't aware.
"I knew that the paint had kind of faded," she said. "But there really is quite a bit of actual damage to the surface of the column. It looked to me like it was going to take a long, long time to return it to the state that it should be in.
"And I couldn't see how in the world they were going to open it on July 4th or whatever their first intent was."
LaMear said she wants the restoration crew to take the time necessary to do a good job.
"I know it's an inconvenience for the visitors," the mayor said. "But I think they would understand as well, if they saw the condition that it's in now."
The last extensive restoration of the city-owned column was in 1995.
Marie Laibinis, who had worked on the column 20 years ago, is project director for the new repairs. The conservator has likened the restoration to a physical.
Crews are cleaning the surface of the column, removing moss, painting murals and addressing exterior cracks. Due to weather-related damage, the cupola will be waterproofed during the project.
The 125-foot column, built in 1926, is a tribute to the region's place in history.
The restoration project is being privately financed by Friends of the Astoria Column, a nonprofit led by Jordan Schnitzer, a Portland real estate magnate and philanthropist.
The nonprofit has raised $500,000 for the project and is launching a capital campaign this summer called "Join the Crew" to invite people in Astoria and across Oregon and the nation to donate and help with the preservation.
"With over 400,000 visitors a year to this state icon, it is so important to preserve the rich history of our ancestors and our state," Schnitzer said in a statement. "We are honored to do so."