‘The playground of millionaires’


In the Sunday, June 22, 1884, edition of The Daily Morning Astorian: “There is a strip of sand running from opposite Garibaldi, Tillamook County, to Cape Meares, that has all the attributes necessary to make a desirable seaside resort. Not the least among its attractions is its isolation. ... Just now it is not ‘fashionable.’ As soon as a great four square house is built and ‘improvements” are made, and it is duly advertised as a ‘resort,’ it will have lost its chiefest charm.”

In 1884, this spit of land — Pacific Ocean on one side, Tillamook Bay on the other — was only used for camping parties. But in 1906, T.B. Potter bought the 600-acre spit, and began selling lots in the aptly named Bayocean, touted as the “Queen of Oregon Resorts” and “the playground of millionaires.”

The resort had paved, lighted streets, businesses, a “luxury” hotel and a saltwater pool in the Natatorium (pictured, courtesy of PDXHistory.com), which also featured a waterfall, wave machine, orchestras serenading swimmers and a 1,000-seat movie theater. Since there was no land access, Potter built what was then the largest yacht on the West Coast, Bayocean, in 1914 to bring in prospective buyers.

The demise of the resort began when the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to build a single jetty at the north mouth of Tillamook Bay in 1917. The Corps warned that a second jetty was needed, but no one wanted to pay for it.

As a result, the redirected ocean currents began eroding and narrowing the spit at a rate of 60 feet a year by the 1940s; the last house fell into the ocean in 1960. Nothing remains of the “Queen of Oregon Resorts” but small bits of debris in the sand.

Even though Bayocean became an island in 1952, the post office didn’t close until 1953, when the postman — who was one of the first, and also the last Bayocean resident — Francis Drake Mitchell, was court ordered into the State Hospital in Salem. He would not have left otherwise.

Ironically, a breakwater was built in 1956, and a second jetty, which counterbalanced the effects of the first jetty, and the spit has rebuilt itself. What happens to it next remains to be seen.

(tinyurl.com/bocean1, tinyurl.com/bayocean2, tinyurl.com/bocean3)

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