Architectural History

archEdgar M. Lazarus, Portland architect and member of the Vista House Association, was selected to design Vista House in 1915.

Vista House is an example of German “Art Nouveau” architecture. Native Italian craftsmen built retaining walls and bridges for the Columbia River Highway and laid the rockwork surrounding Vista House.arch

Vista House is approximately 44 feet in diameter and 55 feet high. The floors and stairs in the rotunda and the wainscoting in the lower level are Tokeen Alaskan marble. Most of the interior of the rotunda is light cream and pink Kasota limestone (marble), including the hand-carved drinking fountains. The inside of the dome and its supporting ribs were painted to simulate the marble and bronze originally planned for the structure. The exterior is faced with light gray sandstone.

The upper windows are greenish opalized glass, like the original. The rotunda windows are also greenish opalized glass with clear glass in the viewing areas.

The roof was originally surfaced with matte-glazed green tiles. The roof was covered with a copper crown for more than 50 years. During the 2002 exterior restoration, a new glazed green tile roof was installed over a protective dome membrane.

Poems on the Vista House Pillars Located in the Rotunda

“So prodigal has nature
been with us;

so lavishly
has she spread her feasts
at our banquet table.

We have been apt to feel
that these glories
would be never ending.”

Governor Olcott’s 1921 message to the legislature


“Discovery is an adventure.

There is an eagerness,
touched at times
with tenderness as one moves
into the unknown.

Walking the wilderness is
indeed like living.

The horizon drops away,
bringing new sights, sounds
and smells from the earth.”

William O. Douglas (1898-1980)

“We live within
a heritage
beyond our computation.

Will we tilt the cup
until it runs dry
or build for
a day
beyond our day?”

Samuel Boardman Quote from Chester H. Armstrong’s 1965 book History of the Oregon State Parks

“We call upon the mountains,
the Cascades and the Olympics,
the high green valleys
and meadows filled with wildflowers,
the snows that never melt,
the summits of intense silence,
and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the forests,
the great trees reaching
strongly to the sky
with earth in their roots
and the heaven in their branches,
the fir and the pine and the cedar,
and we ask them to

Teach us, and show us the Way.”

Chinook Invocation – Quoted in Edward Goldsmith, The Way, 1992