Perched on a majestic overlook above Oregon's Columbia Gorge, the historic Vista House has had a facelift.
On a June afternoon in 1916, an unlikely cast of characters gathered at a panoramic overlook above Oregon's Columbia Gorge to break ground for the historic wayside building known as Vista House. They included rifle-toting national guardsmen, Portland tycoons, and the reigning Portland Rose Festival monarchs, Queen Muriel and King Joy. President Woodrow Wilson even participated long-distance from the White House. On cue, he pushed a button that unfurled an American flag on that windswept bluff. Thousands cheered, guns fired, and the Rose King christened the soil with Temperance-approved loganberry juice.
Once built, Vista House served as a rest stop for motorists, a monument to pioneers, and the architectural exclamation point to the Historic Columbia River Highway. Over the years, though, rainwater seeped into its soaring rotunda, marble wainscoting, stained-glass windows, and terrazzo floors. Ill-conceived attempts at weatherproofing buried the building's elegance under layers of tar, Plexiglas, and concrete—and actually made things worse by sealing in the moisture.
But no longer. A multiyear, $4 million overhaul has restored Vista House to mint condition. The building's interior is set to open later this year, pending access for the disabled. The exterior stands ready to be admired—a jewel just right for its setting: Crown Point.
GETTING THERE Vista House is two miles west of Corbett on historic Highway 30, which parallels I-84 going through the Gorge. (503) 695-2261 ext.0.
Photography by Larry Geddis
This article was first published in September 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.