Monday, June 14, 2010
The Historic Columbia River Highway was designed in 1913 to connect a series of waterfalls, scenic vistas, and natural wonders along the south side of the Columbia River, east of Portland. It was the first scenic road in America and combined traditional European and modern road-building techniques to create a spectacular highway that blended well with the landscape. Referred to as the “King of Roads,” it was a popular drive for early Portland motorists.
The story goes that Julius Meier, of Meier and Frank, had a summer home in Corbett at the western edge of the Columbia River Highway and one day took a group of ladies for a Sunday drive along the recently completed road. During the outing, it became obvious to him that there was a dire need for a comfort station or rest stop somewhere along the route. He immediately presented the idea to the Multnomah Board of County Commissioners. Samuel Lancaster, the county engineer who had supervised the building of the Columbia River Highway, had already expressed interest in constructing a building at Crown Point. He wanted “an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite.”