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Two historical reasons to visit Hammond - on the North Oregon Coast
Astoria - Warrenton

by Foster Church for the Oregonian

Hammond -Peter IredaleOnly the ribs of the sailing ship Peter Iredale remain. But the remains of the ship, which ran aground near Hammond in 1906, still atttract throngs of visitors, many with their cameras.

Hammond on the far coast of northwest Oregon offers glorious views of the mouth of the Columbia River and a tranquil, out-of-the-way atmosphere. But the real reason to visit is to experience two ruins from the past: the wreck of the Peter Iredale and the vast remains of Fort Stevens. Either is enough to furnish dreams with bizarre images for months.

Getting there: Hammond is about 100 miles from Portland and is reached by leaving U.S. 101 just before it reaches the Youngs Bay bridge, and then taking Oregon 104 north.

History: Hammond isn't truly a town anymore since some years ago it merged with Warrenton, which suggests how far its fortunes have fallen. In its day it must have been a vibrant place. Steamer ships docked at nearby Flavel, where a three-story hotel served the needs of oceanfarers. The commercial fishing industry supplied jobs on boats and local canneries, and during World War II, Fort Stevens, which guarded the entrance to the river, was thronged with soldiers. But Astoria developed its own deep-water port, pulling business away from Flavel. Fort Stevens closed after the war and the fishing industry declined. There didn't seem much point in keeping the town alive as an independent entity, but it retains its own ZIP code and sense of identity.

Fort Stevens

Fort or temple? Qualifying for a top 10 position on the list of Oregon's most impressive human creations are the remains of Fort Stevens -- now part of the 3,700-acre Fort Stevens State Park -- at the mouth of the Columbia River on the edge of Hammond. The fort was built during the Civil War. In 1897, a massive refortification program was undertaken and eight concrete batteries were constructed. Although the fort and its enormous guns were never called into action, on June 22, 1942, a Japanese submarine fired 17 rounds on it. It was the first enemy attack on an American mainland military installation since the War of 1812, but little damage was done. When the military deactivated the fort, the 10-inch rifled cannons, with their nine-mile range, and the12-inch mortars were removed. It became a state historical site, and what remains is the essence of its architecture: all gray concrete, ramps, staircases, gloomy rooms, pillars and broad verandas. The batteries look less military than ceremonial now -- reminiscent of Mayan temples buried in the Yucatan jungle. As a piece of architecture stripped to its basics, it's not to be missed. (503-861-3170, ext. 29; open May through September, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., museum open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; October through April, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., museum open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Peter Iredale

One more ruin: Another evocative wreck nearby is the Peter Iredale, a 278-foot sailing ship built in Liverpool in 1890. The vessel ran aground on Clatsop Spit near Hammond on Oct 25, 1906. It immediately became a tourist attraction and even now, sunk deeply in the sand so that only the skeletal ribs of the prow are visible, it generates a fizzy tourist-party atmosphere at odds with its ruined fate. Up the road is Battery Russell, which is one of the more dramatic of the Fort Stevens structures.

Life of privilege...

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