History Big As Life: Newport Buildings
A reflection of Newport's past as big as life- that's one way of describing the scale of importance of our historic structures. Not only are these structures a part of our everyday lives, they are a part of the past. They reflect the architectural tastes and technology of their times. Their alterations provide tangible evidence of demands placed upon them by varying uses and changing eras. Within their walls lie stories of the people and events that shaped Newport's destiny. Ideally a compromise is made and the structure meets the needs of its present-day owners and retains as much of its historical character as possible. With diligence from the community, our historic buildings will remain a part of Newport's collective memory for generations. They are landmarks, tangible evidence of this area's history, real history. The following is a partial list of Newport's most historic structures, along with a little bit of their history.
Bensell House, 747 SW 13th Street
This home is said to be built by Lincoln County pioneer Royal Bensell. It appears in some of the earliest photographs of the Bayfront. It may very well be Newport's oldest home. By the early 1960s, the house was in a state of disrepair and was a temporary home for transients. It has since been remodeled extensively inside, but the exterior appears to have changed little since its earliest photographs.
The Bradshaw, 502 SW 2nd Street
Now the Oar House Bed and Breakfast, it was originally built as a three-story rooming house by Charles Bradshaw. It was constructed out of salvaged lumber found on the beach at Schooner Creek. Bradshaw also owned half interest in the Nye Beach Natatorium. The lighthouse cupola was added during a major remodeling in the 1980s.
Burrows House, 545 SW 9th Street
Built in 1895 by members of the Burrows family, this building became a rooming house run by Susan Burrows called "Sea Veiw Rooms." From the 1930s into the 1970s, it was a funeral home. In 1976, it was moved across Highway 101 from Alder Street to 9th Street, where it became one of the museums at Lincoln County Historical Society's Oregon Coast History Center.
Bank of Newport Building, 459 SW Coast Highway
When the Bank of Newport held a grand opening in 1937, more than 400 people walked through this art deco building. But first, a fire siren was blown and a band started playing to mark the occasion. Now the offices of the Lincoln County School District call the old bank building home.
Hilan Castle, 620 SW 11th Street
This unique structure was built in 1913 by the eccentric Roper family to resemble a castle in Wales. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. The exterior of this most unusual building has changed little over the years.
Matthews House, 508 SW 11th Street
This home was built in the early 1890s by Oliver Altree of Toldeo and Captain John Matthews, a retired British officer. This unique Queen Anne-style home was built by materials sent to Yaquina City by train. Captain Matthews established the first newspaper in Lincoln County: The Yaquina Bay News.
Midway Theater Building, 453 SW Coast Highway
When the theater opened in 1937, it had more than 250 feet of neon on its marquee. The interior was described as a modern arrangement featuring a false stage and a motor-operated curtain. It sat 400 people. It is being renovated and converted into a church.
Oddfellows Building, 404 SW Coast Highway
This three-story wooden structure was built around the turn of the century. This building and the one behind it were moved back 20 feet after their owners refused to let the highway commission cut the front of the buiding off to make room for the highway. It is currently occupied by Mazatlan Mexican Restaurant. In the past, it was home to the post office and the Gateway Cafe.
Nye Beach District, West of Highway 101
This area of Newport is an interesting mix of cottages and vacation homes as well as businesses. Although many structures in this area have been constructed recently, a large percentage date from the 1910s.
Nye Beach Grocery Building, 704 NW Beach Street
This building was built in the early 1900s to house a grocery store. "Patrick's Grocery" was the first occupant. It remained a grocery store under several owners up until the early 1990s. It was spared from the 1949 fire that damaged many buildings on this block. At that time, the lot next to it was vacant, creating a fire break. The grocery building now houses a clothing store.
Oddfellows Building, 620 SW Bay Blvd.
This structure was moved to its current location in 1908. This was just a few months after a fire burned this block to the ground. It was located in the area of the Embarcadero Resort. It took a week to move using rollers along the beach at low tides. For many years it was "The Grand Rooms" and a pool hall. Currently it houses the Old Bayfront Bazaar.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Yaquina Bay State Park
This one-time lighthouse and Life Saving Station is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest wooden structure in Newport. It was decommissioned as a lighthouse just three years after its completion. This was about the time the Yaquina Head Lighthouse was completed. The Friends of Yaquina Lights, a non-profit group, now maintains the two lighthouses in partnership with Oregon State Parks and the Bureau of Land Management.
Standard Oil House, 156 SW Bay Blvd.
When this house was built it was six miles from its current location. It was in Yaquina City, where the railroad line formerly ended. For many years it was used to house oil company employees. In the 1930s, it was barged down the bay to its current location. Today it houses a coffee house with a working class name, The Daily Grind.
Sylvia Beach Motel, 267 NW Cliff
When completed in 1911, it was known as the "New Cliff House," a resort hotel. For much of its life, it was known as the Gilmore. Today it continues in use as a hotel. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Western Bank Building, 333 SW Bay Blvd
Built in 1912, this was one of the area's earliest banks. In 1924 the bank failed. A teller was convicted and went to jail for misappropriation of the bank's funds. Not long after, it reopened when a new institution formed, Bank of Newport. The bank continued operations in this building until a new structure was built at Highway 101 and Alder in 1937. The original building now houses Deep Down Dave's and Oregon's Best.
Yaquina Bay Bridge, Highway 101
Without question, this bridge is the most famaliar Newport-area landmark to visitors. Designed by Conde McCullough and constructed at a cost of $1.3 million-a large sum even today-it is the epitome of a landmark. Even a simple sketch of its graceful lines says Newport to anyone who has seen it. Dedicated in October of 1936, it has served coastal motorists faithfully and with grand style.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Yaquina Head Nat. Area
This functioning lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed in 1872 to replace the old Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. During the summer months, it opens it's door to the public at selected times. A new interpretive center is scheduled to open January 1997.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. The Lincoln County Historical Society is working to collect and make available to the public information on all of Lincoln County's historic structures, sites, and families. If you are interested in doing research on any of these structures or any other Lincoln County topic, plan a visit to the society's research library. Appointments are not necessary but are recommended.
For more information about these and other sites, contact the Lincoln County Historical Society
545 SW 9th
Newport, Oregon 97365