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Seaside's Gilbert Inn Was There at Start of N. Oregon Coast History

Published 10/14/20 at 5:24 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Seaside's Gilbert Inn Was There at Start of N. Oregon Coast History

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(Seaside, Oregon) – It's not often that an Oregon coast town's deep history is so closely tied to a building that's still standing, much less one that's operating as a bed ‘n breakfast / hotel with a rather legendary charm. Yet the Gilbert Inn, on the edge of Seaside's downtown, comes straight from the very beginnings of the major tourist destination, filled with historical vibes and a true sense of time travel. (Above: Gilbert Inn in the '40s).

This place is not faking it. Gilbert Inn is the real deal, with many of the original building materials still holding the BnB up after nearly 150 years. It all goes back to a famous man – at least in Seaside. One of the city's main founders was French immigrant Alexandre Gilbert, who not only created two notable buildings in town but helped create its most renowned attraction, the Seaside Promenade.

He was a local pioneer who dabbled and excelled at many things, helping to shape northwest history in the process.

Seaside's Gilbert Inn Was There at Start of N. Oregon Coast History

What is now a rather famous BnB started off as a simple two-room cabin in the center of Seaside, back in 1885 – even before Seaside had its name. Gilbert kept building on the structure as his own businesses grew, becoming the full-blown Queen Anne-style mansion we know today by 1892. Building materials came from the north Oregon coast, and there are still old growth beams in the basement and fir trees comprising many of the walls. The massive boulders pulled from the Columbia River still make up the foundation.

These days, plenty of historical remnants of Gilbert and old Seaside remain, including a woven rug from Iran that he snagged around 1900. Needlepoint works by his wife Emma still remain in some spots.

The entirety of the place is stuffed with antiques, rooms are filled with period furniture, and there's that eye-popping ancient pump organ in the lobby that still breathes remarkable life into the building.

Stately Gilbert Inn has remained largely the same over the last 100-plus years, except for some additions to the building in the 1990s, which included five guest rooms above the original structure.

Gilbert was a major mover / shaker in Seaside, arguably at least as much as Ben Holladay (whose hotel The Sea-Side House actually gave the town its name). Gilbert came to the north Oregon coast in 1881, living first in Astoria.

He was born in France in 1845 and fought in the Franco-Prussian war around 1870 – which was when Holladay first built his hotel in the as-yet-unnamed Seaside. In 1871, he and his family moved to Quebec briefly and then San Francisco, ending up in Astoria in 1881.

It's said that he also owned a saloon and brothel in Astoria for a time, which supposedly had a trap door where men were shanghaied.

Over the years, he worked as a consul to France, a hotelier, a wholesale / liquor store owner, he maneuvered well in real estate and became the mayor of Seaside in 1912. Among his most high-profile accomplishments was creating the Gilbert building downtown (hence the Gilbert district) and purchasing the land along the oceanfront of Seaside so he could then donate it to the town, with the idea of the Promenade in mind.

Mr. Gilbert passed away at his home in in 1935 at the age of 90; his wife Emma died there in 1917 at the age of 72.  341 Beach Drive. Seaside, Oregon. (503) 738-4142. Gilbert Inn website.

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