Originally published Monday, August 8, 2011 at 7:55 PM

Astor family coming to city's birthday party

Descendants of 18th century Pacific Fur Company founder John Jacob Astor are coming from England and New York to help celebrate Astoria's bicentennial and see the place named for their ancestor.

The Daily Astorian

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Descendants of 18th century Pacific Fur Company founder John Jacob Astor are coming from England and New York to help celebrate Astoria's bicentennial and see the place named for their ancestor.

"We couldn't have a 200-year celebration without having the Astors as part of the party," said Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen. "Their visit will be the crown on the entire event."

A party from the fur company arrived on a ship from New York in 1811 and established a settlement at the mouth of the Columbia River, naming it for the founder of the company.

Lord and Lady Astor, the eighth John Jacob Astor, the 3rd Baron Astor of Hever, and his wife Elizabeth, are coming from their home in England to the Bicentennial Regatta weekend, arriving Wednesday for a four-day stay. Accompanying them are their son Charles, 21, and daughter Olivia, 19, to view Astoria for the first time.

Lord Astor has been to Astoria, first in 1961. He was 14 years old, arriving for the sesquicentennial - the 150-year anniversary of the town. According to news clippings at the Clatsop County Historical Society, Astor lost his camera during that celebration. It is not known whether that camera was ever recovered, but there are several photos of the young Astor with a camera in hand during his visit.

As a newlywed, he returned in 1971 with his first wife, Fiona.

He has not been back since.

"They lead very busy lifestyles," said Bicentennial Executive Director Paulette McCoy. "Lady Liz (Lord Astor's second wife) emailed me this week and asked what to pack, excited about the weather and the events. They're all very excited to have a break and see this place named after their ancestors."

Also joining Lord and Lady Astor will be their New York cousins, the granddaughter of Col. John Jacob Astor, who died aboard the Titanic, and her son.

Historian Rex Ziak - a featured speaker for the Adventure in History Lecture Series, as part of the Bicentennial - said Col. John Jacob Astor was the fourth bearing the name, the greatgrandson of the original John Jacob Astor.

His granddaughter Jacqueline Astor Drexel and her son Nicholas, 23, will be in Astoria for the grand celebration.

"They've been in communication and are really excited about coming here to honor their ancestors, together," McCoy said.

Cousins Charles and Nicholas will appear in the parade together.

Lord Astor is serving as one of three admirals of the parade.

The family will also take part in the rose planting ceremony at the Flavel House at 2 p.m. Saturday by the Royal Rosarians of Portland.

Van Dusen remembers going with his mother in 1961 to see the Astor family.

"The Astor families, over the past 200 years, have made so many contributions to the city, through educational events, the Astor Column, the library, which was built because of a donation from the Astors and from the American Legion - two pillars in the community," Van Dusen said. "We're very fortunate to have our namesake come from such a respectable and generous family that are respected worldwide."

McCoy said the Astors will be staying at the Cannery Pier Hotel.

Lord Astor has to be back in England by Monday, so he is unable to attend the Mayor's Ball aboard the Portland Spirit. He is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defense.

"It's kind of happy and sad," McCoy said. "We've worked so many years and it's all of a sudden here and we don't want it to go away.

"I like planning parties and celebrations, and there have been a few sleepless nights making sure it all gets done. I'm running on adrenaline and I don't want it to end."


Information from: The Daily Astorian,

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