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Word Nerd: Scow

Published on April 20, 2017 5:11PM





1. any number of large, flat-bottomed boats that are used primarily for hauling heavy cargo or dredging

2. Scow Bay: a largely forgotten shallow tide flat that used to separate downtown Astoria from Uppertown. The bay emerged from the Columbia River between 18th and 21st streets. There was a bridge built over the bay in 1878 around what is now Exchange Street. Both the Scow Bay Iron and Brass Works and the second incarnation of the Clatsop Mill were on the shore. Part of the bay was filled in 1908 to create athletic fields. Following the fire in 1922, the rest of Scow Bay was filled and Commercial Street was raised on pilings to connect the separate sides of Astoria. Today Scow Bay is buried beneath the site of Columbia Memorial Hospital and the former John Warren Field


Enters English in the mid-17th century from the Dutch schouw, meaning “ferry boat.” There are several surviving Scow Bays on the Pacific Coast, including ones in Washington state, Alaska and British Columbia.

“Also open Saturday is a Queen Anne built in the 1890s. Around the turn of the century, it slid one block to the edge of what was then Scow Bay. Two teams of horses hauled it back up the hill, where it was placed facing the cross-street, giving it a new address.”

—​ “Holidays with history,” The Daily Astorian, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006

“‘My grandfather, James Lovell, ran a foundry, the Scow Bay Iron and Brass Works, in what was then known as Scow Bay — that’s where the (John Warren) athletic field and the 4-H fairgrounds are now. The business was going to the oldest son, James Jr., as things happened in those days. Grandfather suggested to my father (the son next in line) that he go into the automobile business. Dad was a machinist in the foundry, so he had a good background for going into the car business,’ [Bob] Lovell said.”

— Bob Olmos, “Longtime car dealer a walking history book,” The Oregonian, Saturday, May 15, 1982, P. 36


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