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The Vista House is 733 feet (223 m) above the Columbia river on the south side of the Columbia River Gorge. The octagonal structure was designed by Edgar M. Lazarus, but Samuel Lancaster, the consulting engineer for the Columbia River Highway, had proposed "an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite." The highway's supervisor John Yeon contracted Lazarus to construct the Vista House in 1915. Although Lazarus described it "Tudor Gothic," perhaps to avoid its German connotations during World War I, it incorporated elements of the Jugendstil ("Youth Style") phase of Art Nouveau (named after the 1890s Munich periodical "Die Jugend") which was developed by Hermann Obrist, Albert Endell, and Peter Behrens. Construction began late in 1916 and was finished in 1918. The gray sandstone building is essentially a domed rotunda 44 ft (13 m) in diameter on a 64-ft (20 m) diameter base. The rotunda is 55 ft (17 m) high. Because of its cost and ornate fixtures, including marble toilets and bronze interior, it was derided at the time as the "$100,000 Outhouse." After its completion Lazarus engaged in a bitter dispute with the Oregon State Board of Control regarding his fees, and the controversy damaged his career to the extent that he did little important work afterwards, though he lived until 1939, and the the Oregon chapter of the American Institute of Architects, which Lazarus had founded in 1911, suspended his membership in 1919.
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