As of August 27th, 2018, Lower Columbia Preservation Society has officially entered into a formal agreement with the City of Astoria for LCPS to maintain and improve Customs House Park for the benefit of the general public. This decision was prompted by public discussions earlier this year, in which Astoria City Council considered the possibility of selling the site (which would require that the historic reconstruction be moved). LCPS believes that the siting of this reconstruction (although 200 feet east of the original site) is important to the accurate interpretation of Astoria's history as the location of the first U.S. Customs office on the Pacific Coast.
The original customhouse in Astoria was built in late 1849 and destroyed by fire in 1852. No photographs or drawings exist of that original building and the only known description of it is that it was “very neat, plain and of course pretty.” The reconstruction, built between 1992 and 1994, is based on photographs and documents of the customhouse built in 1852.
John Adair was appointed “Collector of Customs for the District of Oregon and Inspector of Revenue for the Port of Astoria, in the Territory of Oregon” by President James K. Polk in August of 1848. His duty was “...to assume the right to collect duties and revenue from other countries on their outgoing cargoes of timber and wheat and imports of European and Oriental goods.” Originally, Adair did business from his home before building the original customhouse on his own property.
The area around the customhouse became known as “Adairsville,” and was over a mile from the more prominent Shively and McClure districts to the west. For a period of time, no road connected Adairsville to the main town of Astoria and access was only by boat. The customs service was moved to the downtown area in 1861. A new stone customshouse and post-office was built in central Astoria in 1874. The 1852 customhouse was demolished in 1901.
This fall, Clatsop Community College's historic preservation students will assess, document and restore/replace exterior siding and woodwork on the building. The reconstruction was completed using methods, tools and materials of the original construction and will provide the preservation students the opportunity to learn woodworking techniques, rot repair and facade restoration.