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Tourism In Manzanita In 1914 A Rugged But Enticing N. Oregon Coast Adventure

Published 06/30/020 at 5:44 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Tourism In Manzanita In 1914 A Rugged But Enticing N. Oregon Coast Adventure

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(Manzanita, Oregon) - Back in those early days of Oregon coast tourism, in 1914, hotels were still a recent invention and most people, it seemed, stayed in tents. The route from Portland or Salem to Tillamook County was via train, and a rather dramatic ride apparently. Beaches were still the only highway up and down the coastline, and the regional press stood in awe of the region, fawning over it with heaps of hyperbole and flowery praise. (Above: just north of Manzanita and what is called Cube Rock below back in 1912).

Manzanita and northern Tillamook County were just getting discovered and coming into their own, with places like Newport and Seaside having already been steady attractions for a couple of decades. Checking out old newspaper clippings about Manzanita from 1914 is like a trip through time, especially one large piece that ran in Salem’s Oregon Statesman on July 12 of that year. There doesn’t appear to be a byline, so the writer is unknown, but he or she starts off with the now-eyebrow-raising statement: “Manzanita Beach on the Oregon coast resembles the Florida coast, which it rivals.”


The writer describes “white sands” that go on for five miles and depicts a Manzanita that in some ways is not that different from today. Boating, hunting agates, fishing and all that good stuff is talked about, although the coastline north of Oceanside doesn’t have that many agates these days.

The marked difference is discussing “beeswax digging,” which was still a thing then. For decades, chunks of beeswax were mysteriously washing up around Manzanita and the Nehalem Spit, and it wasn’t until the first years of the 21st century that the shipwreck that was coughing it up from the deep was ID’d. That beeswax stopped by the ‘60s or so. (See Five Facts About Oregon Coast Shipwrecks)

Back in 1914, the trip by train was $5 round trip, which was a bit of a cost back then but not bad. The article details a winding, forested ride through long tunnels, dark canopies of fir that have grown as high as 300 feet, and dizzying chasms and ravines. At one point, the writer mentions various trestles that are wooziness-inducing on their own: one soaring above the forest floor at around 186 feet. The tunnels are so long the train personnel keep the lights on in the passenger cars for several hours during the daytime.

It’s 92 miles from Portland to Wheeler, but the trip seems to take around eight hours or so, maybe longer. (Also see Manzanita's Wreck of the Glenesslin: Historical Oregon Coast Controversy)

Once you make it to the beach, there are tents everywhere. It’s still a wide beach, and when the tide is far out you can really walk around parts of Neahkahnie Mountain.

The beaches of Tillamook County had become so popular that in 1913 some 75,000 people had stayed in July and August of that year. The tourist count seems to also include Bayocean, which was the resort town that was to “rival Atlantic City” back about then, sprawled out over miles of roads on the spit at Tillamook Bay. That disappeared into the ocean by the ‘40s.

One curiosity is the reference to the story of buried treasure that lingers here today. By 1914 there were the remnants of an old shack inhabited by a man who spent years looking for it. At least that’s the lore.

In this area, the writer notes it’s “blessed with good hotel accommodations,” but there’s a meager few between Bay City and Manzanita. Manzanita itself only seems to offer two about then: the Manzanita Inn and the famed Neah-kah-nie Tavern (which the San Dune Pub has nicely emulated with its interior).

Nightly rates at the Manzanita Inn were two bucks a day to ten dollars for a week.

The article mentions some hotel options in Rockaway Beach and Bayocean, as well as one in Garibaldi. In Rockaway Beach there’s a nasty reminder of Oregon’s racist past, with The Elmore proclaiming “Europeans only.”

The Neah-kah-nie Tavern, 1910s.

There’s lots of free camping in various areas between Garibaldi and Manzanita, although the article doesn’t say where.

Typically, families lived in tents for weeks at a time while staying on the coast, and places like tiny Oceanside were known to have as many as 500 tents set up for the summer. Showers and bathroom facilities? Those options largely depended on the natural surroundings, but some businesses provided use of the toilet for a few pennies or so.

For those who wanted to build their own cottages on the Oregon coast there were lots going for $20 to $40. Those in Garibaldi were part of a “temperance resort,” meaning a no liquor clause was part of the deed. Prohibition was still six years away, but that movement had its hooks in many things around the U.S. by this time.

The article makes some interesting predictions for the future, like Bay City would soon be a major shipping and railroad center. It likely hasn’t grown much since then.

Despite odd comparisons to Florida and even a claim the waters here get the warmest north of Los Angeles, the whole piece is a fascinating and smile-inducing glimpse into the past of a north Oregon coast spot we all know and love. Little Manzanita has exploded in the last 20 years, and tourists from 1914 would be truly be freaked out by the town even in 2014. Yet one thing remains: that beauty is addicting. Hotels in Manzanita, Wheeler - Where to eat - Manzanita, Wheeler Maps and Virtual Tours

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