Published On: Sat, Feb 1st, 2020

Visiting Vista House and Crown Point near Portland, Oregon

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Since its completion in 1918, the octagon-shaped stone Vista House has served as a resting spot for travelers in the Columbia Gorge and as an observatory providing views of stunning Gorge scenery. It sits atop Crown Point, a basalt promontory 733 feet above the Columbia River.

The site has been part of the Oregon State Parks system since 1938. In 1971 it was designated as a National Natural Landmark and cited for its “exceptional value in illustrating the natural history of the U.S.”

Vista House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Built to Match its Natural Setting

Construction began on Vista House as the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway reached completion in 1916. The highway fulfilled the vision of some of Portland’s most prominent citizens to make the Gorge landscape accessible to travelers. Like the highway, Vista House was designed to combine human architecture with the location’s natural beauty.

Architect Edgar Lazarus designed Vista house in the modern German architectural style, also called the German equivalent of Art Nouveau. The foundation was laid by the same Italian stone masons who built the retaining walls and bridges for the Columbia River Highway. The exterior of the 55-foot high structure is of gray sandstone, topped with a domed roof of matte-glazed green tiles.

Interior floors are surfaced with Tokeen Alaskan Marble which is continued on the stairs, rotunda and wainscoting on basement walls.

By 2001, time had left Vista House in disrepair. That year it was listed in the National Geographic Society’s “Save America’s Treasures” book. The building was closed for nearly five years while it underwent extensive restoration. It was reopened in 2005.

Coffee, Gifts and Educational Materials Available for Travelers

Visiting Vista House and Crown Point near Portland, Oregon

Inside the Vista House visitors will find restrooms, an espresso bar and a museum gift shop with many handcrafted items from local artisans. Displays and exhibits provide information about the building and local history, plus Gorge natural history and sights to see. Volunteer are available to answer questions.

Tours are also provided for groups.

A large parking lot accommodates travelers, and sidewalks circling the building offer endless photo opportunities up and down the Columbia River and surrounding landscapes.

Getting There

Crown Point and Vista House are 24 miles east of Portland on the Historic Columbia River Highway. The site can be reach by traveling east from Portland on Highway I-84 to Exit 17 in Troutdale. From there the Historic Columbia River Highway leads 11-1/2 miles to Vista House.

The building, including the gift shop, is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Vista House was originally dedicated not only as a rest stop and observation point, but also as a memorial to Oregon pioneers, especially those who arrived on the Columbia River. Today it still can remind visitors of those first settlers who traveled through the natural beauty of the Gorge.

It is also a gateway to other Columbia River Gorge attractions, including Multnomah Falls.

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