013 Crown Point

Vista House and Viaduct from East
Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. December 9, 2014

Post Card (Reproduction): Crown Point, 1915
Crown Point, 1915, Photo by Weister Published by Friends of the Vista House. From the collection of A. F. Litt

Lancaster's "King of Roads" Circles Crown Point
Clarence E. Mershon. The Columbia River Highway: From the Sea to the Wheat Fields of Eastern Oregon. Portland: Guardian Peaks Enterprises. 2006. 1st Edition. 106

The True Starting Point of Lancaster's Road

Since much of the highway’s alignment from Troutdale to Chanticleer Inn followed a portion of the county’s extensive market road system, Lancaster began his survey just east of the restaurant, at the point where Larch Mountain
Road begins a grade. Standing there, he “realized the magnitude of [this] task and the splendid
opportunity [it] presented.”48

48 Oregon Journal, 3 January 1915, pic. supp., p. 2, as quoted in Fahl, 114.

Hadlow, Landmark Nomination, 60


From Chanticleer to the east line of Multnomah County, a distance of 20.48 miles, there existed no road. There was a narrow, steep and crooked link from Chanticleer down the side of the gorge to Latourelle, then up and over and down again to Bridal Veil, connecting with the short piece of road built in response to the petition previously referred to of Henry Wemme and others, when the Columbia Highway was inaugurated and where it had ended its course abruptly against a rugged mountainside some distance above the track of a trans-continental railway. (Lancaster, 1914 58)

Starting at Chanticleer, 22 miles east of Portland, elevation above sea level 925 feet, it seemed advisable to descend to the river level by a system of loops in a natural ampitheatre, then pass between the railway track and a vertical wall of rock 700 feet high. A preliminary survey and a careful study showed this to be impractical on account of treacherous sliding ground filled with springs, and the entire loss of one of the road's best scenic features.

The elevation of the starting point being 925 feet and the top of the rock 725, the distance a little more than 2,000 feet, made it possible to locate the road so as to reach that point without exceeding the maximum grade of 5 per cent. There were two ways of doing this, and although the location selected was the most expensive, yet, because of its directness, resulting in saving nearly three-quarters of a mile in distance, and its boldness, commanding a superb view of the lower river, it was built there.

For almost a half mile the road is cut out of solid rock and is like the cornice on a tall building. In several places it was necessary to construct heavy dry masonry walls, with rock and concrete protection railings.  (Lancaster, 1914 59-60)

...at Crown Point, we get our first view of the upper Columbia after leaving Chanticleer. Here the road fits the top of a great rock like the hatband on your hat, and you traverse 225 degrees of a circle, on a radius of 110 feet, as you walk or ride around the very edge of this rock tower, 700 feet straight up in the air. A solid concrete railing four feet high and a seven-foot sidewalk and curb protect the outer edge. The total length of the railing and sidewalk is 560 feet.

The owners of the "Thor's Heights" property gave all the right-of-way to the county and almost an acre of ground on the top of the rock, which the road encircles, for a public park, to be the property of the City of Portland. 
(Lancaster, 1914 60)

Preservation and Restoration

The portion of the CRH from HMP 23 to HMP 38.5 is often called the “waterfall section.” Its
western terminus is at the junction with Larch Mountain Road, just west of the former Larch
Mountain Viaduct (this structure failed years ago because of an unstable hillside and was
replaced with a modern “gabion” wall and fill material). (Hadlow, Landmark Nomination, 6)

CLICK HERE to continue exploring the highway

CLICK HERE to continue exploring the highway