Category: Landmark Place
GPS Coordinates: 44.6326472, -124.0481543
Sitting on a forested hill overlooking the bustling waterfront of Newport, Oregon, is the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center. The newest facility administered by the Lincoln County Historical Society (LCHS), it provides a unique look at coastal life over the past century and a half, including lifesaving services, shipping, fishing, art and sport.
“This is a multi-purpose facility,” Steve Wyatt, the Executive Director of LCHS, said. “It interprets maritime history, culture and arts. It’s also an events center where people have weddings, memorial services and parties. It’s basically a community center.”
Steve notes that the physical location of the center is important to its mission. “This building is located right on the Newport Bayfront, overlooking the Yaquina Bay and the fishing fleet” he said. “It’s right at the heart of what’s essentially the maritime culture in Lincoln County.”
With its numerous windows, steeply peaked roofs and brick chimney, the Heritage Center looks more like a rambling turn-of-the-century mansion than a museum. In fact, the structure was a private home before going through multiple owners and serving a variety of purposes.
The very first building on this site was a house built by Dr. James and Elizabeth Bayley in 1890. Dr. Bayley was a prominent physician and politician who used Newport to escape the summer heat of the Willamette Valley. When the Bayley home burned down in 1923, the only parts to survive were the cement foundation and the chimney. Two years later, a second house was built in the same location by Gen. Ulysses Grant McAlexander, a World War I veteran and professor of Military Science and Tactics at Oregon Agricultural College (which is today Oregon State University).
By the 1970s, this building had changed ownership again and was extensively remodeled and opened as a restaurant and nightclub. It continued as such until the business folded in 1999. The property then sat empty and unused until the historical society purchased it in 2004.
It took nearly a decade for the society to restore the property to its more historical appearance and current function as a museum. This process included uncovering the original walls and floors, repairing the neglected roofs, and installing modern conveniences. In June 2013, the Heritage Center opened its doors to the public. Today, it houses a variety of interpretive exhibits related to the Newport Bayfront and maritime life on the Oregon Coast.
“Maritime history is very important because this county is a maritime county,” Steve said. “The ocean effects so much here. The people, the lifestyle, the arts, the culture… It’s very important for young people, especially young people who live here, to learn about their culture and history and grow to appreciate it.”
The Pacific Maritime Heritage Center is located at 333 SE Bay Boulevard in Newport, Oregon. For current hours of operation, fees and exhibit descriptions, visit the Lincoln County Historical Society’s website, oregoncoasthistory.org.
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