Flavel House Museum

(corner of 8th and Duane Streets)
 

As one of the best preserved examples of Queen Anne architecture in the Northwest, the Flavel House survives today as a landmark of local and national significance. The house was built in 1884-85, for Captain George Flavel and his family. The Captain, who made his fortune through his occupation as a river bar pilot and through real estate investments, built the Flavel House as his retirement home at the age of 62. The Flavel House has been restored to accurately portray the elegance of the Victorian period and the history of the Flavel family.


Flavel House History

The Flavel House was the home of Captain George Flavel (1823 - 1893), one of Astoria's most influential citizens in the late 1800s. Captain Flavel was a noted bar pilot on the Columbia River and a prominent businessman. His Queen Anne style house was designed by German-born architect Carl W. Leick and was completed in the spring of 1886. The Captain lived here for seven years with his wife Mary Christina Boelling (1839 - 1928) and his two grown daughters, Nellie and Katie. The couple's son, George Conrad Flavel, never lived in his parent's new residence, as he was already married and living in a house of his own.

The house remained in the family until 1934 when George and Mary's great-granddaughter, Patricia Jean Flavel, gave the property to the city as a memorial to her family. In 1936 there was talk of tearing the house down and establishing an outdoor community park on the property. However, the city had financial difficulties and decided to return the property to Patricia Flavel. That same year the residence and grounds were deeded to Clatsop County with the understanding that both would be kept in good repair and used for public purposes. From 1937 through World War II, the Public Health Department, the Red Cross, and the local Welfare Commission all had offices in the house. In 1951, there was once again talk of tearing the house down, this time to make way for a parking lot for the County Courthouse. Locals organized to save the home and the Flavel House was made into a museum managed by the Clatsop County Historical Society, while still under the ownership of the County. The County transferred the title to the Historical Society in 1995.

About the Interior

The Flavel House is approximately 11,600 square feet and consists of two and a half stories, a single story rear kitchen, a four-story tower and a full basement. The interior woodwork around the doors, windows, and staircases are Eastlake-influenced in design. The Douglas Fir doors and windows were wood grained by a master craftsman to look like mahogany and burl rosewood. The wood likely came from a mill in Portland or San Francisco and was shipped to Astoria by steamer.

Six unique fireplace mantels grace the home and feature different imported tiles from around the world, an elaborate hand-carved mantel and a patterned metal firebox that was designed for burning coal. The 14-foot high ceilings on the first floor and the 12-foot high ceilings on the second floor are embellished with plaster medallions and crown molding. The house was also fitted with indoor plumbing and gaslights.

The First Floor is comprised of the more public rooms such as the grand entrance hall, the formal parlor, the music room (the scene of musical recitals by the Flavel daughters), the library (the heart of the house), the dining room, and the conservatory. The butler's pantry, the kitchen, and the mudroom make up the housekeeping area.

The Second Floor features the main bathroom, five bedchambers, and a small room, which was used as a storage room or sewing room.

The Attic Floor is a large, unfinished area with two plain wood bedrooms used by the Flavel's domestic help. The tower gave the Captain a 360-degree view of Astoria and the Columbia River, so he could keep an eye on the local ship traffic. While some people claim the attic was meant to be a ballroom that was never completed, every piece of evidence clearly points to the contrary - it was never meant to be anything but storage.

The Basement of the house originally had a dirt floor and contained a large wood burning furnace that burned 4-foot wood logs.

About the Exterior

The Flavel House rests on park-like grounds covering an entire city block. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1951.

The Queen Anne architectural style, popular from 1880 to 1910, can be seen in the house's steeply pitched roof, patterned shingles, and cut-away bay windows. Other characteristics of the Queen Anne style are the octagonal-shaped tower, the one-story wrap-around porch and its asymmetrical facade. Decorative elements of the Stick and Italianate styles are also apparent in the vertical stickwork, the bracketed eaves, and the hooded molding above the windows and doors. Outlining the roof and verandas of the house is the original wrought iron and cresting.

About the Carriage House

The Carriage House was built on the south-west corner of the property in 1887. It served as the place where the family kept their carriage, sleigh, and small buggies. It also had three temporary holding stalls for their horses, a tack room, and a hay loft upstairs. In the mid 1890s, the Carriage House was home to the family's hired caretaker, Alex Murray. In time, automobiles, including the Flavel's Studebaker sedan, found a home in the Carriage House and the family's driver kept a room upstairs. Today, the Carriage House functions as the Visitor Center, museum store, and exhibit hall for the Flavel House Museum, as well as the administrative offices of the Clatsop County Historical Society.


About the Grounds

Shortly after the house was built, the Flavel's gardener, Louis Schultz, began planting trees, fine roses, and many varieties of bulbs and shrubs. Many of the plants found in the Flavel yard today are typical of those found in Victorian gardens. A number of the trees were named official Oregon Heritage Trees at a state-wide dedication ceremony held on the grounds in 2003. These include a Camperdown Elm, Sequoia Redwood, four Cork Elms, Bay Laurel, Pear tree, and a Ginkgo Biloba.

Today, both the grounds and the modern kitchen in the Carriage House are available for rentals.

The Flavel House and Carriage House are significant architectural and historical treasures for not only Clatsop County but the entire Pacific Northwest. The Captain George Flavel House, Carriage House, and surrounding landscape are describ