On a beautiful sunny day, Cathedral Park in Portland, along the banks of the Willamette River, is a perfect spot for a casual picnic. The park sits underneath the St. John’s Bridge – a green colored suspension bridge with towers that resemble Gothic cathedral spires. The bridge was begun in 1929 and dedicated in 1931. It is the only suspension bridge spanning the Willamette, and also the tallest bridge in Portland. This area is peaceful and a wonderful spot for just relaxing.
Right across the Columbia River from Portland lies the old British outpost of the Hudson Bay Company called Fort Vancouver. In 1825, the HBC (a large fur trading organization) set up headquarters here. For the next two decades, Ft. Vancouver became the fur trade capital of the Pacific coast. Many people of all nationalities worked and traded here.
In the 1830’s and 1840’s, American settlers came to the Willamette Valley to farm and live. The HBC made supplies and credit available to these new settlers. This influx of Americans resulted in a division of the Oregon Country and left Ft. Vancouver on American soil. For a few years the HBC continued to trade with the settlers and Indians, but trade diminished and the company abandoned the fort. By 1866, the Fort was abandoned because of fire and decay destroying all the structures.
In 1947, archeologists began excavation on the site of the original fort recovering many artifacts and allowing for reconstruction of the original structures. Touring this wonderful place harkens the visitor back to life in the Old West. Many docents, dressed in period costume, work the facility in the blacksmith shop, the bakery, the kitchen, the general store, and the fur trading outpost.
Seeing the fur pelts hanging from the walls and on the floor is very interesting, even though a bit sad because of all the animal slaughter that went into this trading business. But this is how life was like in this part of the country in those days, and the authenticity is amazing.
The visitor can experience life as it truly was in the 1800’s.