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Yachats' Beulah's Sea View Inn and Landmark Restaurant: Intriguing Oregon Coast History

Published 06/05/2019 at 8:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

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(Yachats, Oregon) – A landmark in the very literal sense is now gone from the central Oregon coast burgh of Yachats. In 2018, with apparently little to no announcement, crews began demolishing the old Landmark Restaurant and Lounge building, which sat in a state of ever-growing decay for about half a decade since the famed restaurant and live music haunt was shut down. (Above: a scene from the Landmark in the early 2000s).

In terms of history, the old Landmark building provided a double dose of knowledge and recollections. Some kind of eatery or another had been at the spot for about 100 years, with each incarnation creating a new set of legends and fond memories. It went from one wild tale to another over the decades, and hosted perhaps hundreds of musical acts and some famous folks over its tenure as a wacky watering hole in this diminutive town.

This true landmark of Yachats apparently dated back to the ‘30s, but that’s not entirely clear. At the very least, the locale housed at least two kinds of food facilities since 1911, initially starting out as a kitchen building for a group of settlers. Apparently around 1934, just as Highway 101 was finished, Beulah's Sea View Inn came into existence – owned by the legendary Beulah Swigert, who was as much a character as she was an innovator at the time. Swigert had come from Portland, and her place soon put Yachats on the map in a culinary way, known for its chicken and dumplings. It also had some amount of fame for its bran muffins.

Back then it was truly tiny: a mere six or so tables and a coffee bar. But it did something right, garnering some national attention during its run from the ‘30s through to the late ‘50s.

One of its famous legends was Beulah herself: considered a red-haired beauty who never married. According to local historian Bill Hall, she had once been engaged but her fiance died. She never found that true love again.

She in turn helped create another eyebrow-raising legend. In the spring of 1957, that hairpin turn the building sat on turned against one driver, who late one night didn’t make it and found himself and his passengers plummeting through the walls of Beulah's Sea View Inn. The car narrowly missed the fireplace and found itself poking out of the other side of the building, dangling precariously over the rocks and bay below. It had gone through the upper floor, and even more strangely, Beulah herself was asleep below on the bottom floor – but had slept through the whole thing.

Those in the vehicle walked away without injury. Yachats talked about the incident for decades, especially the owner's sleeping habits.

Two years later, in ‘59, Swigert the icon and culinary maven died. There were rumors well into the 2010s that her spirit drifted through the place still.

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Beulah's Sea View Inn changed hands a couple more times through the ‘60s, then in ‘68 was bought up by the Zimmerman brothers, who expanded it and added the On The Rocks Lounge. There was a car parts store there, which they scooped up, and that became the part of the Landmark’s bar where the pool table was.

Through the ‘70s and ‘80s, it began to thrive as a live music hotspot and create new legends. Famed soul and rocker bands like the Ink Spots, the Coasters and the Drifters played there. It became unusually progressive for its time, hosting periodic drag queen shows. This unfortunately brought on the wrath of the less-than-socially-tolerant redneck loggers of the time, and they sometimes gathered to beat up the gay clientele of the club and its performers.

By 1989, it switched hands again, becoming the Landmark. By the early ‘90s, it was the archetypal dive bar, with a dingy look and a purportedly rather rough crowd. It wasn’t always suitable for more urban visitors. It still featured live music, however, although this was often relegated to cheesy one-man band acts who did covers. This was a time when the live music scenes of Portland and Seattle were breathing new life into those of smaller towns like Salem and Eugene, and where original indie rock bands became the norm. Even Cape Fear in Newport opened up briefly to feature such elevated art endeavors. So while infernally unhip at the time, the Landmark sometimes attracted the very same indie rocker crowd that normally shunned that sort of thing, in search of a dose of humorous irony in the form of goofy cover bands and weirdo bars.

However, in the early 2000s a pair of former New York journalists, Bruce and Marilyn Olson, bought up the place and turned it into a new kind of live music hotspot. Some of the food became legendary as well – although some was quite pedestrian. Its Italian dishes were much lauded, largely due to Marilyn’s old school, east coast Italian roots.

She had covered some of the Gotti trials in New York and had some wild tales to tell about those court proceedings.

Known as the Landmark Restaurant and Lounge by this time, it skyrocketed to fame with semi-national acts, like trippy Gypsy rockers Gogol Bordello or Todd Wolfe, who had been in Sheryl Crow’s band. Also rolling through this part of the Oregon coast on occasion was Terry Evans, who had played with Ry Cooder and John Fogarty. The club featured a wide range of blues, rock, funk, reggae and other mixes. Some fairly big names from Portland and its thriving music at the time were regulars.

The walls of the Landmark were adorned with all kinds of posters from interesting gigs, including some of those famed shows from the ‘70s and ‘80s. In back was a living quarters that Bruce sometimes used to house visiting bands.

When Evans played in the 2000s, he was struck by a sudden deja vu. Talking to Bruce, he realized he’d played this very bar back in the ‘70s. It was quite a return engagement.

The club left its mark on Salem musician Jesse Ruggles, who played there sometimes with his band, Phamous Phaces.

“The Landmark reminded me of a cool San Francisco bar,” Ruggles said. “Dark atmosphere, cool hanging lights, great food, and a lively crowd. The owner and servers were very nice and hospitable. Always had a good crowd that appreciated the music, and the music they featured was very diverse. Rock, Punk, Blues and Reggae could be played to full crowd every weekend. Lovely place!”

The dining room windows featured a fantastic view of the bay and the Yachats River slithering its way down to the sea. [Speaking of slithering. This personal note from Oregon Coast Beach Connection editor Andre’ Hagestedt: he said he had quite an experience watching some mysterious local wildlife there.

“One night, with just me and another couple eating nearby, something huge and dark slithered down the river into the ocean. It was snake-like and enormous – like six or maybe ten feet long. I’d never seen anything like it and had no clue what it could’ve been. I mean, an ocean eel couldn’t have wandered upstream and back, could it? The other couple and I just flipped out and asked each other ‘did you see that too?’ “]

For a time, there was one particular seagull that liked to hang out in front of the restaurant’s windows. Staff had named him Gilbert (above), and he was a daily regular. He seemed to be watching everyone eat, perhaps somehow believing he would get a morsel through those windows.

The Landmark Inn and Lounge, originally known as Beulah's Sea View Inn, had shut down by 2011. It sat decaying for the remainder of the decade before finally being razed in 2018. It left locals with mixed feelings: a mix of shock, sadness and relief. No one likes to see a landmark go. But sometimes it’s time has simply come. Hotels in Yachats - Where to eat - Yachats Maps and Virtual Tours


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