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The Columbia County Museum has developed virtual walking tours of the historic district as well as Halloween haunts.

COURTESY PHOTO: CCMA, COLLEEN OHLER COLLECTION  - Historic Columbia County Courthouse during filming of Disney's HalloweentownYou may not know you can take a walking tour of St. Helens without leaving your living room.

That's one of the options you have as the Columbia County Museum has developed virtual walking tours, which can be easily activated on your techy devices.

One tour covers the historic district of St. Helens, while another map will guide you through the spooky haunts that were featured in the movies "Halloweentown" and "Twilight."

Also, with periods of nice weather likely to continue from late September into October, you can actually walk the streets with the map guiding you along.

Les Watters, volunteer curator at the museum, said the two tours are different in content, but they're very much the same in how they're formatted.

"What we did, and it's available on our website, is this virtual walking tour that you can access through Google Maps on our website," Watters said. "It's primarily focused on the St. Helens historic district, so it's the residences and the buildings that are within that district."

To access the maps, go to the museum's website at colcomuseum.org and click on "walking tours." You'll find icons that will lead you to several historic locations. You need only click the icon and you can read all about that building or residence.

If you run across a bulldozer icon, click on that to learn about a building that is no longer at that location.

"It might have been a building that was included in the historic district originally and has since been demolished, or more likely, something that was important even before the historic district was formed," Watters said.

Watters noted that a great deal of research went into building the map of the historic district.

"That was a community-based activity," he said. "A lot of volunteers spent a lot of time and did a lot of great research and this was before things were really digitized, so they had to do a lot of old fashioned, hard research."

Watters added, "We also interviewed a lot of older residents or people who had historic ties to the community and used information from their oral histories, or sometimes family scrapbooks, that they put together to kind of divine how the community looked and felt at a certain time. It's pretty fascinating that it was done by a group of residents and volunteers."

If you still want to explore after visiting historic locations, click on the Halloween tour.

Watters said, "The 'Halloween and Twilight' tour was developed as a project to try to bring together information for visitors who had come to recognize 'Halloweentown' or were interested in the filming locations for 'Twilight.'"

Watters added, "It includes primarily locations for 'Halloweentown' where certain scenes were filmed. If you clicked on a pumpkin icon, you can see, sometimes, scenes or information about what was filmed at that particular location."

Various icons will take you to "haunted and mysterious" places, while half-moon icons will show you "Twilight" filming locations.

The walking tours are not only helpful for tourists and residents of St. Helens, but the museum can benefit.

"It's also helpful for us, who are doing research, to be able to get to that platform and view what information is there," Watters said.

With the walking tours, visitors will soon figure out their way around St. Helens, Watters said. That's no small benefit, given that much of the city is hidden if you're just driving through along U.S. Highway 30.

"I think if you're new, and you're coming to downtown St. Helens, with the Courthouse and the plaza, it's a surprise," Watters said. "It's right on the river and it's a little bit hidden because you kind of go through residential neighborhoods to get there. It's a bit of a surprise."


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