The Blustery rain-soaked port city of Astoria, Oregon, is located near the mouth of the Colombia River and the Pacific Ocean. The small town of just over 10,000 has an important place in Oregon and American history due to its proximity to Fort Clatsop, built by the Lewis and Clark expedition and served as the group’s home from December 1805 to March 1806. Over time Astoria’s deepwater port and ample natural resources brought in many immigrants, notably Finnish and Chinese, to work in the booming fishing and lumber industries. In the 20th century the sleepy working class town gained notoriety for its frequent use as a filming location for various films, ranging from popular titles like The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, and Free Willy to obscure, independent projects like Into the Wild and the Green Room among others.
Locations to Visit
Film buffs can get their fill in Astoria. Below are several prominent locations that highlight the area’s film history.
Oregon Film Museum
The Oregon Film Museum is located in Downtown Astoria, housed in the former Clatsop county jail, which was used as a set in The Goonies, Short Circuit, and Come See The Paradise. The museum covers not just Astoria’s filmmaking past but the entire state of Oregon; the walls are filled with quotes from movies filmed in the beaver state. An interactive green screen at the museum allows visitors to produce their own short films, and the jail cells from the country jail that were used in The Goonies feature a bevy of information and props from the 1985 hit, which remains Astoria’s most iconic feature film.
Providing commanding, panoramic views of Astoria, the Columbia River, and surrounding areas, the Astoria Column was built in 1926 to rival the Eiffel tower in Paris. The column has been featured in many films set in Astoria, including- Kindergarten Cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Free Willy, and of course, The Goonies. The column stands 125 feet tall and is located on one of Astoria’s tallest hills, giving it its majestic vantage point. The column features a splendid patchwork of illustrations highlighting Astoria’s past featuring depictions of Lewis & Clark, the discovery of the Columbia River by Robert Gray, and the Chinook and Clatsop tribes who inhabited the area long before European’s ever discovered it. For children, the column sells little wooden gliders which can be sailed from the top of the column; their long winding flights to the grassy base of the column is a sight to behold. At night, the column is lit up in brilliant LED colors, which can be seen throughout the area.
John Jacob Astor Elementary School
Located above Pier 39 in Eastern Astoria, slightly up one of Astoria’s numerous hillsides, John Jacob Astor Elementary School is named after American business tycoon John Jacob Astor who dominated America’s fur trade in the early 1800s. The elementary school served as one of the primary settings for 1990’s Kindergarten Cop which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as an undercover cop posing as a school teacher. The film also uses Astoria’s downtown area and neighborhoods as settings.