|Warrenton High School, 1965|
The Warrenton town I knew a half century ago was sleepy, somnolent, swampy, bleak, wet and gray. Warrenton is on the northern Oregon coast, at the mouth of the Columbia River, a few miles west of Astoria; much of the town is diked, emphasizing the general sogginess. I seem to remember that the sign at the city limits gave the population as 1,890, year after year. There was a small lumber mill, a marina with sports fishing outfitters, a small plant that made vitamins and such from fish cannery waste.
Once there were dreams. A century ago, in 1915, Warrenton thought it was on the verge of tremendous commercial and industrial growth. When I lived there, I had no idea of this past panorama of dreams and ambitions, some of which actually reached a tangible state. But forces such as World War I, the Panama Canal opening, and the explosive growth of the auto age, popped the Warrenton bubble.
The whole project was an expensive and complex set of maneuvers set in motion by railroad tycoon James J. Hill to build up traffic from his lines in the Pacific Northwest into California. Building another railroad line of several hundred miles would have been an even more expensive and time-consuming task, and creating a steamship link in 1915 had an additional appeal in its ability to trade on the national excitement over the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco that year. Everyone wanted to go to the fair!
|Constructing the Hill Lines dock at Flavel in Warrenton, 1914|
|This ad appeared in the Oregonian, March 31, 1912, anticipating the Hill Terminals at Flavel|