- Associated Press - Friday, February 6, 2015

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) - The old White Star Cannery boiler, a stark and solitary reminder of Astoria’s past, may get historic designation.

The city’s Historic Landmarks Commission has filed an application to designate the property with the old boiler, a pile field and ballast rocks in the Columbia River west of Second Street as historic.

City planners are also exploring development restrictions over the river near the old boiler as part of the Bridge Vista phase of the Riverfront Vision Plan that would keep building heights to the top of the riverbank.

Taken together, the historic designation and building height limit would essentially shield the property from development and preserve an unobstructed view of the river, the shipping lane and the Astoria Bridge.

Jill Stokeld, the owner of The Ship Inn, who pays $4,750 a year to lease the property around the old boiler as view protection for her popular fish and chips restaurant, described the view as “priceless.”

“It’s one of the very few areas where there is an uninterrupted view of the river,” she said.

Residents of the Columbia House condominiums and preservationists also would like the property protected. Along with its historic significance and views, the nook often attracts waterfowl, particularly in the spring and summer.

“To me, losing that would just be a crime,” said Russ Farmer, a school administrative assistant and former co-owner of Bio-Oregon Protein, who lives at Columbia House.

The White Star Cannery, one of the dozens that dotted the river during the city’s days as a fish canning hub, burned down in 1973. The old boiler that juts violently out of the water is the last vestige of the ruins.

The property is owned by the Oregon Department of State Lands and leased to Stokeld, whose late husband, Fenton, once wanted to expand on The Ship Inn and build a hotel and marina. The couple’s British pub and restaurant opened at the end of Second Street in 1974, a year after the cannery burned, and is up for sale.

The restaurant’s dining room and deck have expansive views of the river, and the old boiler has become a draw for both locals and tourists as a remnant of a nostalgic era.

“That boiler is one of the most photographed sites in Astoria by our visitors,” said LJ Gunderson, the president of the Historic Landmarks Commission. “And it’s one of the last areas like that with any piece out in the water that still is standing.

“So we felt that it would be in the best interest of our efforts to try to preserve that area.”

The State Historic Preservation Office will consult with the Department of State Lands about the potential historic designation.

The Historic Landmarks Commission, which has the authority to review its own application, will hold a public hearing to determine whether the property meets the criteria under the development code for historic designation.

Among the factors are historic significance, such as whether the property has the capacity to evoke dominant themes of local history, and symbolic value, including whether the property has come to connote an ideal or period.

If the commission makes the historic designation, the decision can be appealed to the City Council.

A historic designation would not prevent development of the property, but any project would have to pass review by the commission. The potential building height limit would also severely restrict the type of projects possible.

Some preservationists have been critical of the city for not doing more to safeguard Astoria’s history, buildings and views during the debate over the Riverfront Vision Plan or the possible expansion of the Astoria Public Library into the old Waldorf Hotel.

Uniontown was designated for potential development in the Riverfront Vision Plan, so city planners and policymakers have to be mindful before closing off too much property that could be used to preserve a working riverfront or spur economic growth.

“So while you can’t designate all sites, this would give you a representation of what the waterfront was,” said Rosemary Johnson, a retired city planner who works on special projects and is closely involved with researching the old boiler property.


Information from: The Daily Astorian, https://www.dailyastorian.com

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