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Three Unique, Even Kooky Bits of Oregon Coast History: Cult, Lighthouse, Pat Boone, Land Changes

Published 03/05/21 at 6:40 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Three Unique, Even Kooky Bits of Oregon Coast History: Cult, Lighthouse, Pat Boone, Land Changes

(Oregon Coast) – History is full of surprises, even on the sparse, unassuming Oregon coast. Sometimes it’s the startling changes in landscape that have happened. Sometimes it’s the people themselves. (Photo above: the Eye of the Needle structure at Heceta Head Lighthouse, courtesy Keepers of the Heceta Head Lightstation)

Here’s three examples of rather eye-popping bits of the past of this region. Part of it even leads to ...er, um.....heavy metal music.

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Heceta Head Lighthouse Surprise History. The central Oregon coast wonder near Florence has much to its history, between the tower and the keeper’s quarters alone. But there’s so much more to its past than even that.

Once upon a time, there was a rock structure near the lighthouse called the Eye of the Needle. You could actually see the lighthouse through the hole and it was a favorite stop of tourists in the 1910s through maybe the ‘20s.

Exactly when it disappeared is unclear, according to local lighthouse historians. The organization Keepers of the Heceta Head Lightstation is still searching for that answer. It’s likely it went the same erosion path as a small arch sea stack at Oceanside back in 2004. For decades that arch existed, but a storm that winter caused it to crumble and then become two sea stacks.

It is known that at some point state officials blew up a sea stack below the Heceta Head Lighthouse because people kept climbing on the area and hurting themselves (which is one of the big reasons they blew up chunks of Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock in the late ‘60s). You can see in the Needle photographs there is a large chunk of rock directly connecting a sea stack to the cliff. That is now gone.

Another fun fact about the lighthouse is that this Heceta Head used to be its own tiny community, separate from Florence. That was back around 1900 through the ‘30s, according to the Keepers organization, and somewhere around that headland there was an actual schoolhouse . Oregon Coast Hotels in this area - South Coast Hotels - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours

Waldport’s Pat Boone Inn and the UFO Cult. What is now called the Alsi Resort in Waldport’s Bayshore district has a bit of a wacky history. (Above: Bayshore Inn in 2004)

It all started out in 1969 as the Pat Boone Motor Inn. That’s right, we’re talking 1950s crooner and heart throb Pat Boone. He went in on the hotel with the Wendell West Co. as an investor back in the ‘60s, and thus it was named after him.

According to newspaper reports at the time (Capital Journal, et al), Boone also had an investment in a resort on the Washington coast and in a baseball team in Oakland, California. He had dabbled in the restaurant biz more than a decade before that by starting an eatery under his own name in Denton, Texas.

Rather hilariously, the backlit road sign for the hotel featured a picture of Boone in a pink leisure suit.

In 1997, Pat Boone went a decidedly heavy metal route, seen here in at an awards show with Alice Cooper

Also starting up with the Pat Boone Motor Inn was the Dunes Restaurant, created by Eddie and Marilyn Hansen who had The Dunes in Newport back then. It’s not related to the Henry Thiele’s Dunes franchise, which became big around Oregon for a time.

Apparently business hit the rocks fairly quickly and by 1971 the hotel was forced to sell to satisfy some major debt.

How long it stayed with the Pat Boone name is unclear, but by the late ‘70s it was the Bayshore Inn, a name that lingered for a long time after.

In 1973, two people by the name of Marshall Herff Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles had started a new New Age religion called Heaven’s Gate, which incorporated a mish-mash of UFO stuff and Bible prophecies. Sometime after the hotel had become the Bayshore Inn, they held a meeting there which resulted in a few recruits from Oregon.

Heaven’s Gate made international news in 1997 when the cult committed mass suicide in its complex in California.

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Fort Stevens / Warrenton

Much of N. Oregon Coast Didn’t Exist 100 Years Ago. Back when Lewis and Clark visited the north Oregon coast, the shoreline was as much as a half mile eastward. So many of the ponds and wetlands around Fort Stevens were not there then.

A little over one hundred years later, that changed – all because of mankind.

It’s startling to think about, but it’s all due to the building of the jetties at the Columbia River. The first one began construction in the 1890s, the second just after the turn of the century, with both completed by the ‘20s. Yet within a few years of the first jetty being finished – about 1915 or so – the shoreline from Fort Stevens down to Seaside expanded quickly. By the ‘20s, just as the Seaside Prom was built, the beach at Seaside went from about 300 feet or less of rubble mixed with sand and a steep incline to about the 1,000 feet of expanse we now see between the Prom and tideline.

Lidar shows a whole half mile farther north was added. Fort Stevens was much smaller before that, with the sea probably about where Battery Russell is now.

See the full story about Parts of North Oregon Coast Didn’t Exist 100 Years Ago.

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