Fort Astoria (Fort George)
This is claimed to be the original location of Fort Astoria. In modern Astoria it is at the corner of 15th and Exchange. The building the mural is painted on is the backside of the Fort George Brewery. I’m not entirely convinced that this is the location of the original Fort, but I have no proof otherwise. One thing I am sure of, the original fort did not have a block house at it. The original fort was a simple collection of houses, and a log fence was added later, likely due to the Clatsop indians’ known penchant for simply taking trade goods as reported a mere five years earlier.
Interesting to note, the building in the background is the Astor Hotel. Cable TV was invented there, by Ed Parsons in 1948. He was the owner of KAST Radio in Astoria and was looking for a way to get TV signals to his apartment so his wife could watch TV. In those days, there was very few TV stations, and they were all in larger cities. In this case Seattle was the closest.
Fort Astoria has quite an interesting history. It was meant to be the headquarters of John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company. Two separate expeditions were sent out, one by sea on the Tonquin, and another by land. The Tonquin arrived first and started construction of the fort in March 1811, and had it finished by May. The overland party reached the fort in February 1812.
Due to the War of 1812, the North West Company, a British owned fur company, pushed the British Royal Navy to capture the fort. The HMS Racoon, HMS Cherub, and HMS Phoebe sailed in from Rio de Janeiro on July 6th, 1813 with designs to do so. The Cherub and Phoebe departed the Racoon in order to search for another missing ship, and the Racoon continued on. When it arrived at Fort Astoria, they found that the fort has already been sold by the Pacific Fur Company to the North West Company. They held a simple ceremony and renamed it to Fort George.
This in part led to the controversy and almost war (again) over ownership of the Oregon Territory. This also led to the Fort being returned to American possession in 1818. But, as there were no Americans in the region, and the fort was technically owned by the North West Company it remained a British trading post for many more years. In 1821 the Hudson Bay Company absorbed the North West Company. They used it as the Pacific Northwest Headquarters until Fort Vancouver was finished in 1825.
It was abandoned soon afterward and sat vacant until 1830 when the Hudson Bay Company opened the fort back up to be a headquarters of it’s Salmon fishery business. It remained as such until 1848 when the Oregon Territory was formally ceded to the United States by Great Britain. Meanwhile the town of Astoria grew up around the fort. It was an important maritime port and had a United States Post Office in 1847. Many people had ideas of making Astoria the “New York of the Pacific,” but time and economics has made that impossible.