Vista House

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Vista House
Photograph of a scenic building on a high promontory with an expansive view over a river and canyon
Vista House
Locator map
Locator map
Locator map
Locator map
Location of Vista House in Oregon
Location 40700 E Historic Columbia River Highway
Corbett, Oregon
Coordinates 45°32′22″N 122°14′40″W / 45.539579°N 122.244401°W / 45.539579; -122.244401Coordinates: 45°32′22″N 122°14′40″W / 45.539579°N 122.244401°W / 45.539579; -122.244401
Area 3 acres (1.2 ha)
Built 1918
Architect Edgar M. Lazarus
NRHP Reference # 74001705[1]
Added to NRHP November 5, 1974

Vista House is a museum at Crown Point in Multnomah County, Oregon, that also serves as a memorial to Oregon pioneers and as a comfort station for travelers on the Historic Columbia River Highway. The site, on a rocky promontory, is 733 feet (223 m) above the Columbia River on the south side of the Columbia River Gorge. The building shows great sensitivity to its site in the Columbia River Gorge near Corbett,[2] and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Crown Point Vista House was completed in 1918. It was designed by Edgar M. Lazarus. With its marble interior and brass fixtures, some Oregonians at the time derided it as the "$100,000 Outhouse".[3] The original idea for an observatory at the site came from Samuel Lancaster, the consulting engineer for the Columbia River Highway. Lancaster proposed

"an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite"[4]

Lancaster also suggested the name "Vista House." The Vista House Association was established to raise money for the project, composed of 52 Portland-area leaders.[5] Funding subscriptions failed to raise sufficient money, and most of the cost of construction was paid by Multnomah County. Construction was supervised by John B. Yeon.[4]


Lazarus' design incorporates elements of the Jugendstil, the German interpretation of Art Nouveau which had been popular in Europe in the late 19th century up to 1910. The building is essentially a domed rotunda 44 feet (13 m) in diameter with an octagonal plan on a 64-foot (20 m) diameter base which houses toilets and a gift shop. The rotunda is 55 feet (17 m) high. Stairs lead from the rotunda to an elevated viewing platform at the base of the dome. The exterior is gray sandstone, with a green tile roof. The interior is extensively finished in marble, even in the toilets. The dome interior has bronze lining.[5] The clerestory windows feature opalescent glass in a simple tracery pattern, with similar colored glass at the tops of the windows at the main level.


The Vista House interior in 2010

The building is a popular tourist stop for drivers on the Historic Columbia River Highway. The building was refurbished and the interior restored to its 1916 appearance; it reopened in 2005 after five years of restoration work.[6] The roof was completely rebuilt with new tiles and an underlying membrane. Exterior restoration was complete by 2002. Interior work comprised finish repair and replacement, upgrading the sewer system, and the installation of a geothermal heat pump system. The restoration also made Vista House accessible to the handicapped with a disappearing lift between levels.[7][8] From the top of Vista House, which is accessible by stairs, one can view Portland and Vancouver, Washington to the west. Beacon Rock, on the Washington side of the gorge, is visible to the east.

Vista House is owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 5, 1974.[1] Crown Point was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971.[4] Vista House is a major contributing structure in the Columbia River Highway National Historic Landmark.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Ritz, Richard Ellison (2002). "Lazarus, Edgar M.". Architects of Oregon: A Biographical Dictionary of Architects Deceased – 19th and 20th Centuries. Portland, Oregon: Lair Hill Publishing. pp. 247–248. ISBN 0-9726200-2-8. 
  3. ^ "Dedication ceremony for Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon, ca. 1919". University of Washington Libraries. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  4. ^ a b c "The Vista House Story". Friends of Vista House. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Hartwig, Paul (July 26, 1974). "Vista House" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "Welcome". Friends of Vista House. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "Restoration Story". Friends of Vista House. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "Accessibility". Friends of Vista House. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 

External links[edit]