When I was little, my grandparents occasionally took me to visit the Astor Column in Astoria. I didn’t pay much attention to the faded murals ringing the tower; I was too busy climbing up and down the circular iron staircase inside. I’ve been there occasionally as an adult, but not since my family was kicked out of the park a few years ago following an unfortunate incident involving a young child, a shoe, and a park attendant with a very small sense of humor.
In his book Astoria, Peter Stark tells the story behind the founding of the Astoria settlement. The key to John Jacob Astor’s vision of a global trading empire was an outpost on the Pacific coast, and he poured men and a substantial fortune into the venture. Although Astor was a detailed planner and spared no expense, he failed to take human frailty, an unexpected war, and sheer bad luck into account.
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