Why do people build tall structures? The Astoria Column

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Astoria_column_bigOn the highest hill in Astoria, Oregon, near the mouth of the Columbia River, stands a 125-foot tall column, patterned after Trajan’s Column in Rome. The exterior of both have a series of carved scenes winding around and up the column. The Astoria Column was built in 1926, and has an interior stairway of over 160 steps, and observation deck near the top.

The Astoria Column has fourteen different scenes carved by Italian immigrant artist Attilo Pusterla. They are in temporal order, and begin at the base of the column and wind upward. However, by the time of the dedication of the monument in July 1926, only a portion of the sgraffito bas-relief carved scenes were complete. The now-complete scenes, if unwound, would extend for over 500 feet.

The carvings quickly began to deteriorate in this location, exposed to storms from the Pacific and the freeze-thaw of winter. It was only in the mid-1990s, with the assistance of conservators from J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, that the column’s art was better stabilized.

Even a cursory examination of cross-cultural data indicates that around the globe, in many societies, peoples with many belief systems have built structures important to them on high places. In addition, the structures are often unusually tall when compared to residential buildings. Indeed, important buildings are often tall, large, or both.

Why do you think this is so?

Website of Friends of the Astoria Column.

Wikipedia entry on Trajan’s Column.

Where to find it