My grandfather was born back in 1876 — the year our country marked its first hundred years. Of course, Papa didn’t remember the celebrations and hoopla but, in his dotage, he sometimes claimed that he and the United States of America shared the same birth date. His loving family didn’t disabuse him of that notion.
In 1876, Oysterville was a swaggering 22 years old and was the only settlement on the North Beach Peninsula — unless, of course, you counted McGowan and Chinookville and Ilwaco as “on the Peninsula” which people in those days didn’t. Oysterville’s economy was based upon oysters and also, according to some, upon politics and litigation. After all, Oysterville was the Pacific County seat and it is said that the population tripled to some 500 or more on Court Days as lawyers and judges, plaintiffs and defendants, witnesses and onlookers gathered to see justice served.
Papa would be a sturdy four-year-old before Jonathan L. Stout and Henry Harrison Tinker each purchased property along the weather beach some 15 miles to the southwest of Oysterville. There were similarities in the intent of the two men; each was interested in developing a resort community. In style and manner of achievement, however, they differed considerably. To the discerning, the distinctions in the communities they established are as apparent today as they were in the1880s and ‘90s.
Stout’s Sea View
Jonathan L. Stout platted his 153-acre homestead north of Ilwaco with the ideal of developing a tourist haven. His timing was excellent. By then, hundreds of summer visitors were coming from the Portland area to vacation on the North Beach Peninsula.
Stout built an inn and bathhouse, advertised for guests and in July 1886, opened the Sea View House, a massive hotel with a grand ballroom. By the time the first five miles of track were laid for the Ilwaco Railway & Navigation Company’s narrow-gauge railroad in 1888, “Stout’s Seaview” could boast of the hotel, an entertainment hall, scores of camping sites, a camping supply store, bath houses, a stable for guests’ horses and carriages, and a plank road from the beach inland to the heart of the community. Soon 50x100-foot lots were being sold for $100 apiece.
Seaview quickly established itself as a summer retreat for the Portland elite. Amenities at vacation “cottages” often included servants’ quarters and carriage houses. These days, even with the influx of full-time residents, the community is considered one of the best-preserved summer resorts of the Pacific Northwest. The old railroad Station (now the Depot Restaurant), the historic Shelburne Inn, the stately homes along the tree-lined streets, all evoke a time when life’s pace was slower and summers were never-ending days of enjoyment at the beach.
H. H. Tinker’s Tinkerville
On November 1, 1880, just a month after Stout recorded his townsite with the county officials, 39-year-old Henry Harrison Tinker purchased one square mile of sandy swamp, just a mile or so north of Sea View. Tinker came from Maine where his family had been in the resort business for several generations and it was his dream to develop, on his own property, a recreation area which would attract travelers year around.
To this end he laid out lots and blocks (with park areas reserved for picnics), named streets, started the process of filling lowlands, and advertised the availability of lots in Portland newspapers. Tinker also built the Tinker Hotel for those who couldn’t afford to buy one of the tent-sized lots or were “just passing through.” Tinker’s subdivision was popular with Portland residents almost immediately. Camping tents, summer cottages, and commercial ventures popped up everywhere. He called his community “Tinkerville.”
When the little narrow railroad was built, the tracks ran right through the town’s center. People lining the right-of-way to watch the trains go by caused the area to be called “rubber neck row” and passengers could lean out of the train windows to make purchases from shops that were only an arm’s length away.
The record is silent as to whether Papa and his three sisters and three brothers were ever among those taking a train excursion to Long Beach. I’ve always assumed that my Great-grandmother Julia would have looked askance at such a carnival atmosphere influencing her youngsters. I’m sure, though, that the two oldest, Dora and Ed, would have loved it. They were known in our family as the two with the most spunk!
Promoting Long Beach
The U.S. Post Office Department established the town as “Long Beach” on Jan. 25, 1887, and the railroad, too, promoting the benefits of seaside vacations, promoted the “Long Beach” name. Even so, residents and visitors continued to call the resort “Tinkerville” for many years.
About the time of its incorporation in 1922, the city’s movers and shakers began a vigorous campaign to change the name of the North Beach Peninsula to the Long Beach Peninsula. The campaign was successful in terms of popular lexicon much to the irritation of other communities along the beach. However, to this day, the official name of the Peninsula, according to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, remains “North Beach.”
Now it appears there is a new altercation brewing — this time between those two 139-year-old neighboring communities of the Peninsula.
Long Beach is making annexation noises. Established Seaview residents are mustering their forces and asking many questions. “What will happened to our dune areas that we’ve fought so hard to keep?” “Will we lose our residential character and will zoning changes eventually make us blend without a trace into Long Beach?” “Will the bottom line become tourist dollars?”
I wonder how Papa and his generation would weigh in, if only they could. Maybe they’d remember when South Bend stole the county seat from Oysterville and conclude: “You can’t fight City Hall.” Or maybe they’d advise those Seaview residents who honor tradition and heritage to move north to Oysterville where we are still holding progress at bay (so to speak.)
Probably, though, they’d keep their own counsel. All too often, that seems to be the Peninsula Way…