Before the fire of 1922, much of downtown Astoria was built on pilings over the river. People built out from the original hilly shoreline, creating a level commercial district with access to the water.
Every type of business might be located over the river: hotels and taverns, churches and fish canneries, lumberyards, and a railroad depot.
Naturally, the riverfront was — and is — the workplace for people in the maritime trades. Official business like customs, public health, and pilotage; transportation via ferry, launch, and steamboats; loading and unloading ship cargoes; boatbuilding, shipbuilding, and other maritime enterprises dominated the waterfront.