Blog Archives

Trick-or-Treat? The Good Ghost of Vista House

Join us on for Trick-or-Treating at Vista House on Halloween from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm!  Details below.

 

October at the Vista House is always an interesting month . . .

From the shift in weather and beginning of the winter winds, to the outside weather (rain) making its way inside, to the shorter hours that the building is open, everything changes.  And this last change, being closed more often to the public, means that the local “residents” of Vista House have more time to be in their building alone.   Besides the mice, one of these local residents is (I believe) the ghost of the building’s architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.

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Who resides at Vista House when all of the visitors go home?



Many staff who have worked in Vista House late night in the fall have reported feeling the presence of Lazarus.  I have felt it before, too.  However, I have never been scared of it.  It is a nice, almost nurturing, presence to me.  I feel that he is just there watching over his building.  Happy that we are there, too, keeping watch and taking care—which is why I think I don’t find it scary.  If I was causing damage at Vista House, it might be a different story.

One of the ways Edgar Lazarus makes himself known (other than just the “feeling” that he is there) is by playing with the elevator or “lift.”  The lift is situated in the basement level of Vista House—volunteers in the rotunda level push toggles and buttons to raise and lower the lift.  The control box at the main level desk is the only way to operate the lift.  That said, I have had times when the lift is completely powered off, I am in the building by myself in the hallway in the basement when the lift door will start to open and close.  Or times when I’m upstairs and can hear the lift door opening and closing even though I can see with my own eyes that no one’s hands are on the control.  At times, it is just the outside door opening and closing; at other times, both the inside and outside door start opening and closing.

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Vista House architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.

I have always attributed this lift movement to Lazarus.  When the renovations were made on Vista House in 2004, we kept everything original (or at least as originally designed) EXCEPT the addition of the ADA elevator or “lift.”  This was the only “modern” addition to the building.  I do not think that Lazarus is upset by the lift, more than he is interested in it.  I think Lazarus, being an architect with a quizzical mind, is intrigued by the lift—curious about how it works—and that he is simply playing with it.

I had always attributed the change in the temperature/weather as the sign that strange-ness was coming to Vista House.  However, upon further research, I recently found out that Edgar M. Lazarus died on October 2, 1939 after a bitter dispute over his fees for the design and construction of Vista House.

Is it just a coincidence that Vista House’s ghost-play starts in October?

Or does the spirit of Edgar M. Lazarus begin making his rounds each year on the day he died, taking up residence in Vista House—the building he is best known for and one he felt he was never fully paid for?

(Special thanks to Ranger Mo Czinger for this ghostly account.)

 

 

 

Vista House will be open for trick-or-treating from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on Halloween evening.  Park Rangers will be passing out candy.  The store, espresso bar, and balcony will be closed.  The event will be cancelled if the wind gusts exceed 50 mph:  Wind at Crown Point’s Vista House

 

 

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Recollections from the Old Road

(Special thanks to Kristen Stallman of the Oregon Department of Transportation for this  feature.  ODOT encourages you to share your story:  kristen.stallman@odot.state.or.us

The 100th anniversary of the dedication of Historic Columbia River Highway this year provides an opportune time to remember what life was like along the Historic Highway back in the day (1916 – late 1950s) when this was the only road between Portland and points east.

It is certainly hard to imagine this bucolic life today as we speed 65 mph on I-84 and to imagine  only seventy or so years ago, all the car travel through the Gorge was forced to the narrow, two-lane, scenic highway.   It must have been an incredible 30 mile per hour drive punctuated with breathtaking views and dotted with roadside cafes, souvenir shops and service stations.  However, it wasn’t always stress-free.  Stories of getting car sick, terrible weather, and flat tires were quite common and add to the lore of this historic road.

 

Mike and George Johnson share stories of their grandfather’s highway businesses.

 

Mike Johnson (Vancouver, Washington) and his cousin George Johnson (Hood River, Oregon) surely remember what life was like along the Columbia River Highway.  Mike and George’s grandparents operated Johnson’s Café and service station located on what is now the parking lot at Vista House at Crown Point.  They spent their childhood at Crown Point.  Mike and George shared their stories with Kristen Stallman in Troutdale on July 25, 2016.

The Johnsons family’s black and white photos dated as early as 1926 fill albums made of black paper pages bound together with string.  These pages document a family history linked to the Columbia River Highway.  In fact, George lived in the basement apartment below the store with his mom for the first several years of his life while his dad fought in Pacific during World War II.  Mike’s baby album is so organized and thorough it was as if his mom was doing her best to capture every stage of her new-born baby’s life to share with his proud dad upon his return from the war.  These meticulous photo albums celebrated generations of Johnsons which included snapshots of their thriving businesses and a host of characters along the Historic Highway.

 

1916 View of the W. A. Johnson Cafe

1926 view of the W.A. Johnson Café with a view of Vista House in the distance.

These small black and white photos feature the Johnson family at holiday gatherings, neighbors such as the Hendersons (Crown Point Chalet) and Dimitts (Postcards), favorite customers (State Highway Patrolmen, truck drivers), locals and staff, not to mention the famous pets such as “Muggins” the famed café cat.  The pages of photos document the many epic weather events that were truly unique to living and operating a business at Crown Point during the winter months.  Photos of ice encrusted Vista House and piles of snow were common as were traffic accidents.  A long truck didn’t do so well as it tried to make the famous figure eight curves east of Vista House. Could 60 mph gale force wind be to blame?  The familiar rock walls and Vista House’s circling steps are featured in these historic family photos.   It is easy for one who is familiar to with the site to pick out the same locations todays and step back in time.

 

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“Muggins,” the famed cafe cat.

Bear

Do YOU know the story of this bear on the Columbia River Highway?

 

George Johnson and Mike Johnson have a love of the Columbia River Highway and the Gorge. Their stories and photos make the highway come alive for all of us who appreciate its history and beauty.  They did leave us with one mystery.  The albums portray the Columbia River Highway bear.  Stephen Kenney, a local historian, shared similar story to of a bear shackled at a gas station near the Stark Street Bridge, but the photos make it appear like it was someplace at higher elevation.  If anyone has information on the Columbia River Highway bear please share!

 

Crown Point Businesses

Vista House + Grand Piano = One Wild Evening

Last Friday night, Vista House and all the visitors within experienced a first:  A classical music concert on a full-sized Steinway grand piano in the center of the Gorge’s iconic rotunda.

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Pianist Hunter Noack in the Vista House rotunda on August 20th.

The free event was part of Oregon pianist, Hunter Noack’s efforts to bring classical music into the kinds places that inspire it.  Hunter’s series, “In a Landscape:  Music in the Wild” is taking place from August 20 to September 1 in some of Oregon’s special places:  Crown Point, Timberline Lodge, Tryon Creek, Hoyt Arboretum, Hagg Lake, and more – the only venue with tickets still available is Portland’s Director Park.  http://www.hunternoack.com/

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Pink Martini’s China Forbes singing with Noack.

And the concerts are just what you might imagine – a grand piano sitting unexpectedly in a magnificent landscape with a young musician at the keys sharing his passion while a hundred or so visitors listen on and, in the case of Vista House, admire the timeless view of the Gorge at sunset.

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Pink Martini’s China Forbes and Tom Lauderdale.

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The charismatic and humble Hunter Noack who dreamed up the “In a Landscape: Music in the Wild” series.

As if the music of the talented, gracious Noack wasn’t enough for the evening, Hunter invited two special guests to join him.  Vocalist China Forbes of Pink Martini joined Noack for a few songs, and then pianist Tom Lauderdale of the same joined China for a couple.  Looking around the building that night, it was clear that everyone –  musicians and visitors alike – was mesmerized by the pull of music reverberating between the rotunda’s limestone walls, marble floors, and opalescent glass windows.

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Looking east as the sun sets over Crown Point.

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The sun setting over the Columbia River.

It was a night like no other, and a reminder like no other of what Oregon’s special places sound like.

Holiday Cheer is Here!

‘Tis the season, and rangers and volunteers in the Gorge are feeling holiday spirit!

Last week, rangers changed the light bulbs on “Thor’s Crown” from all white to red and green.  And over the past week, rangers and Vista House volunteers have been working on decorating Vista House’s first ever tree!  As always, it’s been a team effort to make the holidays happen.

Special Thanks

  • To the Olcott Christmas Tree farm in Corbett, Oregon for donating the perfect tree.
  • To the Friends of Vista House Volunteer Development Committee for donating ornaments and helping to decorate.
  • To the Friends of Vista House Volunteer Coordinator for donating a train for under the tree.
  • To the Park Rangers and Vista House Volunteers for keeping the lights on and the tree watered.
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We found the perfect tree! Mr. Olcott graciously cut it down for us.

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. . . and then generously loaded it into our park truck!

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Many thanks to Olcott’s Christmas Trees in Corbett, Oregon for donating our first tree!

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Rangers were dedicated to getting the tree just right!

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Thanks to Vista House volunteers for their time and donations!

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Join us at Vista House this weekend or next to catch the holiday spirit!  We’re open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm, weather depending.

Don’t have your own tree yet?  Check out this guide to local tree farms from the Pamplin Media Group:

http://pamplinmedia.com/sp/68-news/283724-160016-over-the-river-and-though-the-woods

 

 

Ice Castle on Thor’s Heights

Winter storms have hit early and hard this year in the Columbia River Gorge.  Wind gusts are consistently in the 70 mph-range and ice still coats the trees, roads, and buildings around Crown Point.  Temperatures are slowly rising and winds have crept down from the 80s.  And Vista House’s Crown Point — once called “Thor’s Heights” — has lived up to its stormy name.

Here’s a look around the west end of the Gorge:

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Angel’s Rest Trailhead’s new ice skating rink.

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Ice-coated trees at Rooster Rock State Park.

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Ice covered vehicles in the town of Corbett, Oregon.

Tree Over Power Lines at Latourell

Wind and ice have taken out many trees — and sometimes the power with it.

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A passenger’s view of the Historic Columbia River Highway outside of Corbett, Oregon.

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The road to Vista House on Thursday morning.

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The view to Vista House from an icy Portland Women’s Forum.

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A melting ice castle. Vista House on Crown Point.

Wondering what the winds and temps are like at Vista House?  You can click here to check our weather station:

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=pqr&sid=D6193&num=60&raw=0&banner=off

Of course, if the wind gauge is iced over (like it has been for the last two days), it will look like there is no wind at all . . .

In Her Own Words: Cycling the Historic Columbia River Highway

In October of this year, visitor Linda Hill rode her bicycle from Portland, Oregon to The Dalles.  One of our Park Managers had the pleasure of meeting Linda at Senator Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead outside of Hood River and asked that she share her story.  Kindly, she did.

 

1 Leaving Portland

Linda Hill leaving Portland for her 100-mile ride along the Historic Columbia River Highway

I spent 4 wonderful days in early October 2015 cycling a hundred miles from Portland to The Dalles along the Historic Columbia River Highway.  This was my dream ride to celebrate my 61st birthday and I savoured every moment.

3 Heading down to the Waterfalls

Heading down from Vista House to the waterfalls.

4 Horse Tail Falls

Horsetail Falls along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

The location of the small towns along the route let me slow down to a very enjoyable rhythm of 20 to 35 miles per day.  This pace gave me time to stop when I wanted to chat with people and enjoy the views, waterfalls, tunnels, plateaus, and a few of the many trails along this stunningly beautiful bikeway.

Even though there are plenty of campsites along this route, I decided to stay in a few of the many motels in Troutdale, Cascade Locks, and Hood River.  This decision meant that I didn’t have to carry much gear and I had a comfortable bed to sleep in each night. 

5 Bridge of the Gods

Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.

By traveling weekdays instead of on the weekend, the traffic was very light on the portions of the historic highway that are shared with cars.  The ride from Troutdale to Cascade Locks is probably the most beautiful day of cycling I have ever had.

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Senator Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead, outside of Hood River.

The decision I felt best about, though, was to make use of the Columbia Area Transit (CAT) Dial-A-Ride Service to get around the yet-to-be re-connected 10 mile stretch from Wyeth to Hood River.  After watching the ODOT videos about the plans for the final 10 miles of trail, I had no interest in attempting to share any part of the I-84 Freeway with huge trucks hurtling along at 80 miles per hour.  I was especially worried about the narrow section around Shellrock Mountain that is described by Park Rangers as ‘frightening’ and ‘harrowing.’

8 Rowena Loops

Coming down the Rowena Loops on the Historic Columbia River Highway between Mosier and The Dalles.

What a relief to find out about CAT and their bicycle friendly busses. I simply called 541-386-4202 a couple of days ahead and booked an early morning ride from Cascade Locks to Hood River.  Then after being shuttled around the scary part, I hopped on my bicycle and spent a wonderful day riding up the easy 5 percent grade to the West Mark O Hatfield Trailhead and then on to the famous Mosier Tunnels, the town of Mosier where bike racks are works of art.  I climbed up and up some more to Rowena Crest and then rode the swooping loops down toward The Dalles.

At the end of my trip, I caught the scheduled CAT bus service from The Dalles back to overnight in Hood River and then the next morning I caught the bus back to Portland.

9 Columbia Area Transit

The Columbia Area Transit bus.

ABOUT THE HISTORIC COLUMBIA RIVER HIGHWAY

The Historic Columbia River Highway was designed by Samuel Lancaster and constructed between 1913 to 1922.  Its purpose was not merely to offer an east-west transportation route through the Columbia River Gorge, but to take full advantage of every natural aspect, scenic feature, waterfall, viewpoint and panorama.  When bridges or tunnels were designed, they stood by themselves as artistic compliments to the landscape.  The Columbia River Highway served millions of travelers and became one of the grandest highways in the nation.

When transportation needs required faster and larger roads, sections of the old highway were bypassed. By 1960, a new interstate highway had replaced nearly all the older road.  In the 1980s, new interest in the old scenic highway began to resurface.  Lost sections of highway were identified, unearthed and studied for potential renovation.  Ambitions restoration projects began.  Since the 1987, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been charged with working with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), the State Historic Preservation Office and Travel Oregon to preserve, enhance, and reconnect the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Much work has been accomplished since that date.  63 of the original 73 miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway are now open to travel either by motor vehicle (by Highway or connecting county roads) or by foot and bicycle (State Trail.)  Only 10 miles are needed to complete the connection.

To learn more about cycling the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, check out our website:

http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/HCRH/pages/trail.aspx

 

I Sing, You Sing, We All Sing . . . (Or We Used To!): Children’s Sing-Along Event

Join us at Vista House on Friday, August 28 from 7-9 pm for our special childrens’ sing-along event with musician and educator, Jory Aronson!

http://jorysings.com/

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Jory Aronson engages all of the senses with her dynamic musical programs.

Bring your favorite young people and a couple of chairs for a lively evening filled with songs, instruments, skits, and puppets.

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We have been hosting (and, at times, leading!) a series of singing events in the Gorge this year.

At Rooster Rock State Park, it has been monthly song circles on the waterfront–singing songs of yesteryear as swimmers romp around in the Columbia, barges plod through the channel, and the sun sinks slowly over Washington in a crimson wave.

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Enjoy a sunset and a children’s sing-along at Vista House on Crown Point.

At Vista House, it has also been monthly song circles, but within the magical sand and limestone walls of the rotunda as visitors flock to capture the last moments of the sun’s rays falling across the Gorge, birds soar towards their final resting spots for the night, and the Columbia rolls on for as far as the eye can see.

Although they are not widely advertised, we are also bringing song back to the campground with “Old-Fashioned Campfire” events at Ainsworth State Park on the first and third Fridays of the month.  These programs, as you might imagine, are a bit different.  There are fewer instruments, Ranger Patrick and I sing far less well (although Ranger Jami can hold a tune!), and the songs are less formal.  Instead, we stomp and clap and lead skits, we beg and plead until campers come up to sing for us, and the songs less than sing-y are more, well, campy.

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As children, we sang and danced unabashedly.

Our last old-fashioned campfire at Ainsworth was hands-down our best.  Sure, we rangers are getting our shtick down.  But what really made the night so wonderful was that before the 8:30 hour even rolled around, a little camper was up on the stage declaring that she would like to sing the first song.  We could hardly say no.  And without a moment’s hesitation, she started in on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”  Not one song later, she was marching up to the stage again, this time with her cousin in tow.  They performed “The Alphabet Song,” complete with the elemeno p.  Five minutes later they were back.  Something from Frozen, although they couldn’t agree on what until another young camper from another family jumped up and in to help the group settle on “Let It Go.”  This other camper also led us in a handful of her favorite camp songs, from “Apples and Bananas” to “Bazooka Bubblegum.”

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As a long-time performer, educator, and advocate of young children, Jory believes in the magic that can be created with music.

Besides we rangers, only one other adult dared lead any part of any other song.  It was really the kids jumping up and leading unabashedly that made the night a roaring success.  It was a reminder of both how fearless kids can be and how important singing is to us in childhood.  Learning a song as a child was a big deal, something to be celebrated . . . by singing it repeatedly.  And which of we did not use the alphabet song to learn our letters?  Many of us teach it to our kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews today.  In some ways childhood and singing are inseparable.

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“Today, young children are often in front of screens … [I believe] that children thrive when they’re using their senses.”

Which brings me to our next event at Vista House on August 28:  A Children’s Sing-Along with Jory Aronson, a musician and early education trainer.  Jory blends song with puppets, skits, and instruments for a fully participatory musical experience for children.  Besides being fun for the whole family, there is sound benefit to music for children:

“Music is an intelligence in and of itself. It also uses some of the other 6 intelligences in various ways. Songs are linguistic, rhythm is logical, dance and using instruments is body kinesthetic, musical interpretation is interpersonal, etc. Thus, by being involved in music, a child becomes in tune with many aspects of the self.”  – Dr. Howard Gardner (The Theory of Multiple Intelligences)

Join us at Vista House on Friday, August 28 from 7-9 pm for our special kids’ event!

Singing In the Gorge

A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday night, I took several of trips.  I traveled to Michigan, back to the kitchen of my childhood home.  Everything was there—the yellow and white linoleum floor, the long wooden island painted white, the over-sized industrial sink where all kids under four years of age took a bath.

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Vista House all lit up after an evening of singing.

My mom and I were doing dishes while belting out, “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, someone’s in the kitchen I know-oh-oh-oh, someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strummin’ on the old banjo . . .”  My mother had just taught me “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”  Thirty years later, I still know all the words.  And every time I sing them, I go back to my childhood, back to that kitchen, back to my mom making “dish detail” fun.

Then I went back to Michigan again.  Same area, different time.  This visit to St. James Catholic Church—to the “new addition” constructed after the congregation outgrew the church.

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The cathedral-like dome of Vista House as seen when laying back, listening to music.

We were all gathered there— family, friends, and churchgoers.  Service was nearly over; last hymn, last words.  As they closed my grandmother’s casket, the choir and congregation started in, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me . . .”  And as we sang, the words reached out to my grandfather and swept him to knees, arms outstretched onto my grandmother’s casket.  For the first time in my life, I saw my grandfather’s bright blue, dancing eyes fill with tears.  And from that day forward, when I hear “Amazing Grace,” that moment flashes by, and my own eyes fill with tears.

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Strangers brought together by song at a Vista House Song Circle event.

“This Land is Your Land” took me back to elementary school to music class.  Flashes of ribbons and highways and skyways.  The feeling that everything is bright and right and Disney happy.

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The sun setting as visitors sing on during the July 10 Song Circle at Vista House.

“You Are My Sunshine” took me back to summertime in our little neighborhood.  My best friend, Tony, singing to me as we walked up the gravel road on our way to climb the “Jungle Tree.”

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Musicians from the Portland FolkMusic Society leading the group in songs of yesteryear . . . and tomorrow.

All the while, I am actually at Vista House at Crown Point, in the Columbia River Gorge.  It is our second in a series of “Song Circles” in the Gorge.  I am mostly surrounded by perfect strangers, who are surrounded by the same.  But we’re all singing from the heart, smiling as if we’re with old friends.  We sing songs we’ve all known for years, transporting us back in time and space.  We sing new songs whose words when we hear them again will likely bring us back to Vista House . . . to a warm summer night, with a golden sunset, rich voices swirling around the rotunda, wrapping us in a blanket of fullness and contentment.

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Voices rising as the sun was falling.

Join us for our next Song Circle on July 31 at Rooster Rock State Park from 7 to 9 PM.  Bring a friend, your family, your favorite sing-along, and a chair!  Parking permit ($5) or annual pass ($30) required.

For more information, contact Ranger Dorothy Brown-Kwaiser, 503-695-2261 x228

Future Song Circles:

  • July 31, 7-9 PM.  Rooster Rock State Park.

  • August 28*, 7-9 PM.  Vista House.  *Special kids’ sing-along.

  • September 11, 7-9 PM.  Vista House.

Haunted (Vista) House

October at the Vista House is always an interesting month . . .

From the shift in weather and beginning of the winter winds, to the outside weather (rain) making its way inside, to the shorter hours that the building is open, everything changes.  And this last change, being closed more often to the public, means that the local “residents” of Vista House have more time to be in their building alone.   Besides the mice, one of these local residents is (I believe) the ghost of the building’s architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.

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Who resides at Vista House when all of the visitors go home?



Many staff who have worked in Vista House late night in the fall have reported feeling the presence of Lazarus.  I have felt it before, too.  However, I have never been scared of it.  It is a nice, almost nurturing, presence to me.  I feel that he is just there watching over his building.  Happy that we are there, too, keeping watch and taking care—which is why I think I don’t find it scary.  If I was causing damage at Vista House, it might be a different story.

One of the ways Edgar Lazarus makes himself known (other than just the “feeling” that he is there) is by playing with the elevator or “lift.”  The lift is situated in the basement level of Vista House—volunteers in the rotunda level push toggles and buttons to raise and lower the lift.  The control box at the main level desk is the only way to operate the lift.  That said, I have had times when the lift is completely powered off, I am in the building by myself in the hallway in the basement when the lift door will start to open and close.  Or times when I’m upstairs and can hear the lift door opening and closing even though I can see with my own eyes that no one’s hands are on the control.  At times, it is just the outside door opening and closing; at other times, both the inside and outside door start opening and closing.

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Vista House architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.

I have always attributed this lift movement to Lazarus.  When the renovations were made on Vista House in 2004, we kept everything original (or at least as originally designed) EXCEPT the addition of the ADA elevator or “lift.”  This was the only “modern” addition to the building.  I do not think that Lazarus is upset by the lift, more than he is interested in it.  I think Lazarus, being an architect with a quizzical mind, is intrigued by the lift—curious about how it works—and that he is simply playing with it.

I had always attributed the change in the temperature/weather as the sign that strange-ness was coming to Vista House.  However, upon further research, I recently found out that Edgar M. Lazarus died on October 2, 1939 after a bitter dispute over his fees for the design and construction of Vista House.

Is it just a coincidence that Vista House’s ghost-play starts in October?

Or does the spirit of Edgar M. Lazarus begin making his rounds each year on the day he died, taking up residence in Vista House—the building he is best known for and one he felt he was never fully paid for?

 

(Special thanks to Ranger Mo Czinger for this ghostly account.)

Happy Birthday, Vista House

Join us for Vista House’s Birthday celebration on Sunday, May 4th from 11 AM to 3 PM.  

A second, smaller celebration will take place on Monday, May 5th – the day of Vista House’s dedication.


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Dedicated on May 5, 1918 – Vista House is nearing 100 years old!

Recently, I visited the Pittock Mansion in Portland for the first time. A fascinating building, one of the things I was struck by was the similarity between Pittock Mansion and Vista House. Marble interior, sandstone exterior, mahogany woodwork . . . the buildings have the same sort of geometric lines and ornate flair. Undoubtedly, the same movers and shakers that were behind the Historic Columbia River Highway and Vista House were in the same circles as those in Portland. It’s a microcosmic era of architecture in a sense. And now, at both Pittock and Vista House, nearly 100 years later, the doors are open to all and visitors are traveling from afar, piling into these grand buildings, and standing for a moment in awe.

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People have been driving up to Vista House for 96 years – the cars have changed, but for the most part, the building has not!

The other morning, as I was putting on my park uniform, I was thinking about Pittock Mansion and Vista House. And instead of wondering what everyone must see and think as they enter the doors, I started to think about the Vista House building, itself. What has Vista House seen since its opening? How have things changed since 1918? As we all know, if you spend enough time with an inanimate object (today, typically, a vehicle, computer, or phone) eventually, you gain a “sense” of that object—it begins to take on a personality of its own. Buildings, especially those with a rich history, are no different. Spend enough time with Vista House—wash her floors, scrub her toilets, patch her leaks, paint her walls, and set her clock—hang out with her through howling winds, torrential downpours, and stunningly silent sunrises and sets—and you start to get a sense of Vista House.

So, as we prepare to celebrate her birthday on May 5, imagine with me. What has Vista House seen over the past 96 years? What was life like in 1918?

Our U.S. history course remind us that in 1918, WWI came to a close on the 11th hour of the 11th  day of the 11th  month—taking 16 million lives in four years.  The Flu Pandemic of 1918 took three times as many (50 million) in less than a year.  As for every-day life, we Vista House fans know that in 1918, cars were becoming increasingly common as were the roads they traveled upon—although trains remained the primary mode of transportation.

In 1918, people relied on telegraphs and letters for their main communication.  Telephones existed, but were expensive and unreliable.  Radio existed, but commercial broadcasts did not.  Americans spent their free time at roller rinks, pool and dance halls, movie theaters, and saloons.  Films were silent and about 20 minutes in length.

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How does Vista House and the area around it look different today?

In 1918, life expectancy was 53 years for men, 54 for women.  Women began stepping outside of the home, working as teachers and secretaries; some, for the war effort, took traditionally male jobs in factories.  Soon, women would be given the right to vote.  Sports fans could tell us that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 1918 and wouldn’t do so again until 2004.  In July of 1918, revolutionary Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was born.  Mandela passed just last year.

Nearly 100 years.  I can only begin to imagine all that Vista House has seen since her doors first opened.  And all of the work that has been done to keep them open.

Here’s to Vista House—Happy Birthday; to you—“Thank you”; and to another 96-plus years of service for all of us.

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Happy 96th Birthday, Vista House!