BRIEF HISTORY OF NORTH BEND
Asa Simpson – sea captain, shipbuilder, lumber- man – built a sawmill and shipyard in the mid 1850’s at the north bend of the Coos Bay. Most famous of the 55 vessels built here (1858-1903) was the Western Shore, a 3-masted “Oregon clipper” that sailed between Portland and Liverpool in a record time of 101 days in 1876.
Louis Simpson, Asa’s 21-year-old son, took over management in 1899. He purchased the townsite of Yarrow, added it to his father’s lands and incorporated the City of North Bend in 1903. His goal was to imitate San Francisco.
Isolated by difficult terrain, the citizens relied on the waterways to carry cargo and passengers to points on the bay or sloughs. Ocean-going ships navigated the treacherous Coos Bay bar to access other ports.
Nearly 10,000 citizens now live in “the city that believes in itself.” The future may differ from the past, but North Benders remain proud of their town and history.
Listed below are just a few of our many points of interest.
McCULLOUGH BRIDGE (1936) Last of five coast bridges to complete the Roosevelt Highway (US 101). It was a depression era WPA project, costing more than $2,000,000, employed hundreds, has a length of 5,888 feet, a center height of 150 feet. Originally Coos Bay Bridge, renamed 1947 for its designer Conde B. McCullough.
SIMPSON PARK Part of land bought by Asa M. Simpson in 1855. Simpson heirs deeded to the city about 50 acres in 1916. Property divided by Hwy 101 completion in 1936. Considered city park from earliest days of North Bend (1903). Site of early ball field. Used as auto camp 1920’s-1940’s. Variety of old conifers including sequoia. See also Ferry Road Park.
CITY SIGN OVER HIGHWAY 101 (1936) One of last legal neon signs over state highway and source of local pride. Note that the supports are reminiscent of McCullough Bridge.
COOS HISTORICAL & MARITIME MUSEUM (1957) Built to house Coos Curry Historical Society’s collections. New site of the Museum is 1210 N Front Street in Coos Bay.
MERCI BOXCAR (1949) Narrow gauge French rail car known as “forty & eight” from use in World War 1 to carry 40 men or 8 horses. In appreciation for U.S. aid after WWII French people gave each state a decorated gift-filled car. Oregon’s came to North Bend 2006. Restored by American Legion’s “Forty & Eight” Society.
ECKHOFF BUILDING site (pre 1900) Town pioneer did combination home and commercial building in “San Francisco’s Victorian style,” reflecting California’s influence on many early structures. (Now car sales lot.)
HOTEL NORTH BEND (1922) Designed by J.E. Tour- tellotte, was grandest building in city, concrete lessened fire danger, provided 68 rooms, most modern conveniences, dining facility. Vern Gorst met here with national air line executives in 1930, suggested and helped form United Air Lines. First National Bank of North Bend (Sherman/Virginia) closed temporarily 1933-34, city minted myrtlewood money during crisis. (After remodeling, reopened 2009 as housing com- plex with two storefronts.)
WHOLESALE GROCERY WAREHOUSE(1906) Only remaining building of early bustling waterfront, wooden structure on pilings. Many uses – fish cannery, building supply area, ticket office for Breakwater, steamer that sailed Portland – San Francisco route. (Now Kyle Building.)
WATERFRONT (early 1900’s) Boardwalk gives view of area once busy industrial hub of city with shipping, fishing, and passenger ship activity, also mills, factories, shipyards, related ventures. Pilings for city dock still visible. Gorst flew passengers in hydroplane to Marsh- field (Coos Bay) starting 1913, could have been America’s first actual air route, but no written schedule printed.
SOUTHERN PACIFIC TRAIN DEPOT site (1916) After railway bridge over Coos Bay, passenger service began to Willamette Valley and beyond, typical wooden terminal, separate waiting rooms for men and women. Rail service ended 1953, building demolished 1962. (Now State offices)
WINSOR BUILDING (c. 1903) Often called Castle building because of grandeur and Castle Restaurant in first floor corner. Third floor and penthouse, now removed, housed the Commer-cial Club, early civic booster association. (Now storefronts and apartments.)
13 LIBERTY THEATER (1924) Originally silent movie palace, today home of The Little Theatre on the Bay (LTOB), Oregon’s second oldest amateur theater company. Presents wide range of programs, including famed Little Ole Opry featuring country music in July.
HOLLISTER HOUSE (1913) Billiards room in home of prominent local attorney, played important role in cultural development of city. Mrs. Hollister offered it as first public library. (Now North Bend Chapel.)
KEIZER BROS. HOSPITAL (1923) Drs. Phil and Russell Keizer built the city’s second hospital
BANK OF OREGON (1903-04) Originally on corner of Sherman and Virginia, building moved one block west, turned one quarter to accommodate construction of North Bend Hotel 1921. One of city’s oldest structures, closely linked with Louis J. Simpson, founder and first mayor of North Bend, principal member of bank’s Board of Directors. (Now storefronts and living quarters.)