September 24, 2013

Bayocean, "The Town That Fell Into the Sea"

'The other day we had an opportunity to explore.  Well really there was nothing, absolutely nothing left to explore, so we just walked around imagining... until it started to rain and then we headed back to the car.   Here's some history for you.

Once upon a time, a real estate promoter and his son,  had a dream.  The year was 1906 and the dreaming duo was T.B. Potter and his son.  Their dream was to turn the peninsula in the Tillamook Bay into another Atlantic City.  They claimed their project would be known as the  "Queen of Oregon Resorts" and "the playground of millionaires." 
The first lots on this sand dune spit were sold to Francis Drake Mitchell,  a 37 year old druggist and entrepreneur.  Construction began in 1907 and Mitchell built the first hotel and general store.
Soon this small piece of  sand, four miles long, half mile wide - 600 acres, was boasting of paved and lighted streets, a private railroad, post office, public school, and a luxurious 3 story hotel.  Bayocean as the town came to be called, was also known for its entertainment: bowling, golf, shooting range, and tennis courts.  Their Natatorium had a 160 foot- long heated pool with a wave machine, several hundred dressing rooms, a 1,000 seat movie theater and a large dance floor. 
By 1914 at least 600 lots had been sold and the towns population was 2,000.
Then the dream began to crumble.  During a powerful storm in 1932 the Natatorium was destroyed.  Erosion began to narrow the peninsula and by 1952 Bayocean had become an island.  By this time the dreaming father/son team had abandoned their dream. The post office closed in 1953.   Stubborn homeowners were living a nightmare, watching as their homes either fell apart or were washed away.  The last house crumbled and fell into the sea in 1960 and the last remaining building, a garage, disappeared in 1971.
Francis Drake Mitchell was the first to buy into the dream and the last to let it go.  He spent the majority of his life helping to make the dream of Bayocean a reality.  His last days found him trying to repair the washed out roads of Bayocean with a shovel and wheelbarrow.  Following the death of his wife in 1953, a court order moved him from Bayocean to the State Hospital in Salam, Oregon. He died at the age of 95 on July 25th, 1965. 

I find this story so fascinating; the dreaming, the building of a resort town, the nightmare, and then the abandoning of that dream.   I am reminded of the song based on Matthew 7:24-27, that I learned as a young child.  "The foolish man built his house upon the sand....and the rains came tumbling down...and the house on the sand went splat".
I also find it interesting that the man first to buy into the dream lived out his last days trying to repair and fix that dream with a shovel and wheelbarrow.  He spent his life believing in and promoting something that washed away. Nothing remains of his hard efforts except pictures and a road side sign.

For more information check out this  website, it has some fantastic pictures.  Also and,_Oregon have information.

This is the road headed out onto the Tillamook Spit.  It is so hard to imagine that at one time this was a fancy resort town.

  We walked over the dune and down to the ocean's edge. 

And ran through the sand.

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