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Vista House – Crown Point, Columbia Gorge

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High above the Columbia River in northern Oregon’s awe-inspiring Columbia Gorge sits Vista House, the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest. Constructed in 1918 at the cost of about $100,000, Vista House was designed to be, according to its architect, “an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite.” 

In 1915, Edgar M. Lazarus, Portland architect and brother of Statue of Liberty poet Emma Lazarus, was selected to design Vista House. The art nouveau style house is approximately 44 feet wide and 55 feet high. Italian craftsmen built the foundations using a dry masonry (without cement or mortar) technique. Glazed green tiles cover the roof and the windows are made of amber-green opalescent art glass.

On November 14, 1915, The Oregonian stated that the “Vista House is intended to be the finishing achievement for the greatest highway in America and will grace the highest spot on that wonder way." A few thrifty and less-than-enthusiastic Oregonians derided the project, calling it “the $100,000 Outhouse.”

After restoration, Vista House was opened to visitors in the summer of 2005. The octagonal building is home to a museum, a gift shop and an interpretive display of points of interest in the Gorge. An interior stairway and an elevator lead visitors to the outdoor observation walkway around the top floor of the building. It's a favorite spot for photographers around the world.

For more information about the Vista House and the Columbia Gorge, visit the center’s website.

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About Randy Hill

  • Ed

    Architect Edgar Lazarus was not the brother of poet Emma Lazarus. One of those unfortunate myths that keep spreading. Easily fact-checked with ancestry.com and biographies of Emma Lazarus, hardly obscure.

  • It would be nice to include a few words about the fact that Vista House is built of Tenino sandstone, from a quarry by Tenino, WA. This sandstone was widely used in Portland buildings for many years. The sandstone is part of the Puget Group delta that started near today’s Mt. Rainier and stretched to the shoreline which, 35-40 million years ago, extended from somewhere east of Olympia to Centralia. It’s got a lot of fossils in it – though I’ve not looked for them in the Vista House walls. Eventually the quarry at Tenino ran out of good building material. Now it’s filled with water, and serves as Tenino’s summer swimming pool.