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Coos Bay's Party of Historical Proportions: S. Oregon Coast Town Celebrates 150 Years

Published 5/20/24 at 5:05 a.m.
By Andre' Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Coos Bay, Oregon) – In 1874, the little town of Coos Bay was born – well, more or less. It depends on how you look at it, but that's the year that's important to locals, and Coos Bay residents are celebrating that year as the official 150-year mark for the birth of the town (which was called Marshfield then). All this means 2024 is a major party across the southern Oregon coast burgh (Photo Sunset Bay courtesy Manuela Durson - Manuela Durson Fine Arts ).

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Coos Bay gets retrospective throughout this year, peaking with a few celebrations in the late summer and early fall, but there's plenty going on in spring in summer.

The history of Coos Bay and how it got that name is a tad complex. Marshfield was named and settled by one individual named JC Tolman in the 1850s. In 1874 is when Marshfield officially incorporated, but right next door was the little town of Empire, which had been there since 1853. Marshfield had its eyes on that one for awhile as well as North Bend.

Marshfield officially changed its name to Coos Bay in 1944, but in the meantime had tried to envelop North Bend. That, after much legal wrangling and political shenanigans, was rejected over and over. Yet by 1965, the folks in Empire (also known as Empire City for awhile) became receptive to becoming part of Coos Bay and merged with them that year. See When Marshfield and Empire Became Coos Bay: Votes That Changed S. Oregon Coast History

Marshfield early in the last century

Now, in 2024, it's the biggest party in 150 years for what was formerly known as Empire and Marshfield.

Among the first of the historical reveries is at the Historic Egyptian Theatre on July 6 with a special movie about the history of the area

On August 11, the Coos Art Museum celebrates its 40th Anniversary in the repurposed Art Deco post office located at 235 Anderson Ave, downtown Coos Bay. Check out historic posters in a special exhibit. More at the website.

On August 17, the Coos History Museum dives further into the 150th birthday, featuring Steve Greif on the Development of Marshfield.

Building the bridge at Coos Bay - See Coos Bay's Conde B. McCullough Memorial Bridge: History, Construction of S. Oregon Coast Landmark

Coos Bay's Blackberry Arts Festival hits the southern Oregon coast burgh on August 25 – 25 in downtown. It's a tasty annual event features live music and of course plenty of sweets – including ice cream.

In September is when the historic celebration gets real.

September 19, the Coos History Museum takes you back in time with The Story of Eastside and Empire, a special event of the museum's Thursday Speaker Series. It looks right into the heart of the 150th birthday of the area. 6 p.m.

September 21-22. Bay Area Festival. It began decades ago as the official celebration of Coos Bay's 100th birthday and ever since it's been the last great bash of the summer for the three towns and surrounding area. Coos Bay'ers really know how to whoop it up.

The party includes live music, the Cruz the Coos event that features almost 500 vintage automobiles, the Prefontaine Memorial Run, a parade and even more.

On October 17, the Coos History Museum examines local tribal history at 6 p.m.

Wreck of the Sujameco near Coos Bay - Slow But Epic Oregon Coast Drama, Coos Bay's Sujameco Wreck Still Visible - Photo courtesy Coos History Museum

October 26 it's the blowout Birthday Party to celebrate Coos Bay’s Sesquicentennial at various locations, including Coos Bay Village, Coos History Museum and Front Street. Live music, family activities and birthday cupcakes are so far part of the plan, but there will be more announced soon. See the Coos Bay website

If that's not enough Oregon coast history for you, North Bend is once again holding its July Jubilee, set for July 12 – 14, in celebration of its 121 years. There is live music, a Sip N Stroll, food, dancing, a parade, a 5k fun run, a disc golf tournament, and a load of other events celebrating fun and the town's past.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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