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Waldport's Pat Boone Inn: Oregon Coast Finance Tale That Reached Ocean Shores, Washington

Published 03/01/22 at 12:32 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Waldport's Pat Boone Inn: Oregon Coast Finance Tale That Reached Ocean Shores, Washington

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(Waldport, Oregon) – In August of 1969, a rather striking but unknown saga of Oregon coast history began. The Pat Boone Inn opened up just outside the little town of Waldport, in a sand dune-covered district called the Bayshore area. With '50s heart throb singer Pat Boone as one of the financial backers, the main company behind it all, Wendall West Co., utilized his image and persona to tout the resort to full effect. (Above: Waldport's Bayshore Inn as it looked in 2005)

The whole endeavor was surprisingly short-lived, but its legends lived on in several ways, including an association with a bizarre UFO cult and connections to a large-scale resort failure on the Washington coast.

There's little to nothing left of the Pat Boone Inn brand, although the building is still there, now under another hotel name. You can still visit the halls once walked by Boone himself. For a time, there were matchbooks on sale online from the old hotel with Boone's name on it. Purportedly, the initial sign still lived on in someone's backyard in Waldport's Bayshore district: the legendary and inadvertently comical signage with a picture of Boone wearing a pink leisure suit. It's unclear if that bit of history is really still around, however. It would be hilarious to see that again.

Pat Boone entered the scene in the 1950s with a string of top 10 hits into the '60s, and remained in the charts in one way or another until the 2010s. He was more of a ballad crooner, listing more under easy listening than rock 'n roll during his tenure at the top, which didn't exactly make him hip with the hip and cool crowds. But on the charts he was right behind Elvis much of the time, still making a splash commercially. He went on to star in dozens of films and branched out with his career over the decades.

Pat Boone in the '90s with Alice Cooper

By the late '60s, he'd become an investor as well. Boone put money into this hotel and restaurant, a golf tournament in Ocean Shores on the Washington coast and even in a resort in the burgeoning little village. He'd also purchased a basketball team by this point.

The same year that Pat Boone Inn opened in Waldport, the tiny town of Ocean Shores on the Washington coast had been named the “richest little city” per capita in the entire U.S., with loads of well-to-do folks purchasing second homes out there, including a few celebrities. Among them were Boone and singer / actress Ginny Simms, who had been big in entertainment in the '40s. Simms owned and operated a restaurant at a local hotel in town.

But Ocean Shores was truly primitive country then, and only in 1970 did it actually start to acquire roads – even then only basic gravel ones for a time. The economic downturns of the '70s halted much of the progress of the place for a decade.

Back in Waldport, the Pat Boone Inn and the restaurant opened to much fanfare on August 1 of 1969, with Boone in attendance. Some locals still remember that giddy opening shindig with the celebrity hanging around.

The restaurant itself was operated by a culinary celeb: Eddie and Marilyn Hansen leased the property, and already had the Dunes Restaurant in Newport at the time. Eddie was a tad famous for his work at a Portland hotel previously, and by this time an established chef in the state.

The restaurant in 2005

For a time, things seemed to be kickin' at the Pat Boone Inn. March of 1970 saw the Miss Oregon pageant held there, with the famous Boone as emcee. April of that year brought Boone back to town as guest speaker for a Waldport Chamber event held at this central Oregon coast inn. Other gatherings and business meetings there are seen in newspaper reports for 1970 and even '71.

However, that's when the trouble started. It's unclear why the business venture went awry. Even in 1970 the bad juju started, with the Albany Democrat-Herald running a story entitled “State Seeks to Collect Dunes Back Payments.” The Hansens apparently owed the State Employment Division plenty of taxes for both restaurants, and another company associated with the Pat Boone Inn were suing them for rent.

Bayshore Inn in 1975: just years before it was called Pat Boone Inn (Capital Journal, Kristine Rosemary)

By this time, something called The Bayshore of Oregon owned the Pat Boone Inn.

In March of '71, the U.S. District Court in Portland ordered that company to sell the whole property to the city of Waldport, largely due to some half a million dollars in unpaid mortgage payments. The foreclosure was not contested by The Bayshore of Oregon.

Somewhere about here, the Pat Boone Inn went away and the Bayshore Inn came into being. The restaurant continued under another name, and over the decades the hotel and restaurant kept rotating owners and titles. For awhile it was a Howard Johnson's, the Alsi Resort, and other incarnations of Bayshore Inn on and off. Restaurants there kept coming and going a lot faster. In 1982, one of the owners lost the restaurant to the IRS due to back taxes, according to a Salem Statesman Journal article from that year. In the '90s there was a Chinese restaurant for a bit, then others over the next 20 years.

In 1975, as the place was still the Bayshore Inn, its event spaces were kept busy. In came a bizarre meeting to the central Oregon coast town, held at the facility. A sort of self-help group put up enigmatic posters all over Waldport, reading "UFO's. Why they are here. Who they have come for. When they will leave."

About 150 coasties from the area attended, and later some 20 disappeared rather abruptly. They had sold all their possessions, and without telling relatives they went off and joined a new cult – one that would be later named Heaven's Gate. Numerous investigations ensued and weren't solved until two decades later, when that cult committed a mass suicide in California.

Thankfully, all 20 of the Waldport-area locals had left the cult by then. Those that could be found by media were inundated with microphones and reporters. See Heaven's Gate Suicide Cult and its Connections to Oregon Coast 

About 1978, the Bayshore went the condo route, which did not stick around for long.

Meanwhile, up on the Washington coast, the early '70s were not good to the Ocean Shores development of homes and a resort that Boone and the Wendell West corporation were a part of, along with many other partners. For a time it was considered the “finest” resort in the region, but the economic hardships of the '70s – including the gas shortage – wrecked it. That whole “empire,” as The Oregonian called it, collapsed with one of the biggest financial busts of the Pacific Northwest. Millions were lost to a bankruptcy declaration, and Ocean Shores stayed a little place until the booms of the '80s allowed it to grow.

When that case settled, there were $68 million in liabilities settled against $40 million in assets. 2,500 regular working folks lost their jobs. Ocean Shores continued to expand, however, and it's a big player now in Washington coast tourism.

Pat Boone Inn from a Personal Perspective – from Oregon Coast Beach Connection editor Andre' Hagestedt:

“All this dry history of financial woes shouldn't take away from what the Pat Boone Inn offered, including to my own family. It's one of my first memories of the coast, going there a lot, I believe. I remember my mother talking frequently about Pat Boone owning the place, like she felt a little connected to a celebrity. And we went there with even more frequency when it changed names to Bayshore Inn: for years after my mom called it Pat Boone Inn anyway. It was in the early '70s I heard a strange noise coming from the sand dune at the Bayshore beach access: I had actually heard singing sands. Whatever happened behind the scenes, it provided one young family of four from Salem with plenty of great vacation memories.”

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