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Surprising History of N. Oregon Coast's Tillamook County: Shipwreck Lodging and Oceanside

Published 07/11/2017 at 5:34 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Surprising History of N. Oregon Coast's Tillamook County: Shipwreck Lodging and Oceanside

(Oceanside, Oregon) – History is full of curious details and surprises, and sometimes the smallest aspects can be the most rewarding of rushes to the brain.

Case in point: two spots within the north Oregon coast's famed Tillamook County, along the Three Capes Tour. One pertains to Oceanside and what occurred there in its early days. The other is how a shipwreck became a famed bed and breakfast near Pacific City.

What's fascinating about tiny little Oceanside is that in its very beginnings, it was a bigger resort town than it is now. Much more bustling. Even more striking, this was about 100 years ago when the roads to the Oregon coast from Portland and the valley were just muddy lines through the mountains, and mostly impassable once the rains came.

The teeny town's history goes all the way back to before the turn of the century, when a future President Theodore Roosevelt spent some time here as a teen (decades before it got its name.) In 1903, he received a book containing the observations of a pair of naturalists regarding the sea stacks now called Three Arch Rocks, and how local settlers had been using the wildlife there for target practice. Moved by this, in 1907 he declared the rocks a national wildlife reserve.

In 1921, a pair of brothers from the Rosenberg family (still a prominent name there today) purchased the land from a local settler. On the Fourth of July in 1922, it became a town and officially named Oceanside. Shortly after, the town was a busy place, hosting 500 tents to house the summer tourists. Back then, along the entire Oregon coast, this was the main form of lodging, and it would remain so until after World War II.

Oceanside quickly grew, building a dance hall, a grocery and a hotel or two.

In the mid '20s the Rosenbergs built an elevated wooden walkway (called an “angel walk”) going around Maxwell Point. This brought in lots of tourists, but it was anything but angelic: it was quite unsafe and self-destructed more than once.

In 1926, the enterprising brothers blasted a tunnel out of Maxwell Point, which still stands today. It's all the original cement as well. This stood for decades, but was covered up by a landslide in the late '70s or so, until major storms in the mid '90s gouged it back open.

The Great Depression hit and tourism was mostly ground to a near-halt, but then the advent of World War II essentially ended what was left for a few a years along the entire coastline. However, Oceanside became big again, this time housing hundreds of soldiers, many of which patrolled these shorelines for enemy invaders. See the full story at Odd Oceanside History, N. Oregon Coast, Part 1: Roosevelt to Start Trek  and Curious History of Oceanside Part 2: WW II, Lighthouse on Oregon Coast .

Down near Pacific City, about the time Roosevelt came to this part of the Oregon coast, a curious set of circumstances arose. (Above: the schooner Shuan which shipwrecked around Cape Lookout).

Around Christmas of 1890, a Norwegian sailing schooner called the Shuan hit the sands around Cape Lookout and broke apart. The crew had abandoned it some ten days before at sea when storms hit and it began taking on water. So when this vessel shipwrecked on these sands, it was a Christmas present for those looking for easy wood and other supplies.

The ship itself was carrying lumber, and all that was strewn around the beaches for miles. Among the takers: a British immigrant named William Clent King, born in 1854, who wound up growing up in Wisconsin until moving here in 1888. King started a general store in Tillamook, but the peat bogs of the area – and that free lumber – inspired him to build a place along Galloway Road, near what is now the Sand Lake Recreation Area.

This building is currently the BnB known as Sand Lake Inn – a cozy, classy and atmospheric place with loads of charm. Much of that wood inside this charmer is from that shipwreck. Not all of it is obvious, said co-owner Diane Emineth, as some of it is behind other walls now.

Some spots show old saw marks from when the 100-year-old wood was milled up in Canada.

“The ceiling timbers are in the entry room, as soon as you come through the front door,” Emineth said. "These would have been milled sometime in 1890 out of red fir.”

King and his family lived there until 1903, when the Allen family bought it and lived there for 80 years. By the '90s it had become a BnB, with Emineth and husband Ron the third owners since then. See the full story and pictures of the BnB.

A curious side note: King and his family had another shipwreck encounter in 1909, this time being in one. The Argo wrecked in Tillamook Bay that year, nearly killing them. Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

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