The Long Beach Hotel burns on December 10, 1895.

  • By Jennifer Ott
  • Posted 5/12/2011
  • Essay 9810

On December 10, 1895, the Long Beach Hotel burns. It is located in Long Beach, southeast of where the Bolstad Street and Pacific Avenue intersection lies today (2011). Henry (1839-1924) and Nancy (1847-1902) Tinker opened the hotel, the first in Long Beach, in 1883, two years after they purchased a tract of land that encompassed most of the area on which Long Beach sits today. They platted a town, called Tinkerville, selling many of the lots to Portland residents, who build summer cottages. The Long Beach Hotel will cater to Portland's middle and upper classes, who from the 1860s until the 1920s flock to what is known as North Beach, a reference to its location on the north side of the Columbia River. The fire ruins the entire hotel, with just a few pieces of furniture saved from the flames. But it is insured and the Tinkers rebuild the next year. The hotel will serve visitors to Long Beach for another six decades before it is demolished in November 1963.

Getting to the Beach

The coast mountains that parallel the Washington and Oregon coastlines made it difficult to travel by land between those states' interior population centers and their beaches before roads were built to cross them in the 1910s and 1920s. As early as the 1870s, however, Portland residents had the benefit of a water route on the Willamette and Columbia rivers that could carry them to Washington's beaches via steamboat and then stagecoach.

Steamships and side-wheelers, such as the General Canby, the T.J. Potter, and the Ocean Wave, transported passengers to Ilwaco, near the mouth of the Columbia River.  Passengers then transferred to a stagecoach, which crossed a narrow strip of marshy land on a plank road and emerged onto the beach near present-day Seaview. At low tide the stage could travel along the wet sand for the entire 28 miles of the peninsula's lenth. Early beach vacationers used tents and enjoyed the undeveloped beach. Some farms grew up on the peninsula, but no towns had been established north of Ilwaco and south of Oysterville (on the Willapa Bay side of the peninsula).

The Tinkers and Their Hotel

In 1881 Henry and Nancy Tinker purchased nearly a square mile of land on the peninsula and platted a town called Tinkerville, later renamed Long Beach. Portland residents purchased many of the lots for summer cottages or tents.

The Tinkers came to Long Beach via Oregon. Henry, born in Maine, arrived in Clatskanie, Oregon, after working in the gold fields and running a restaurant in California in the 1850s. Henry met Nancy Hannah Bryant (1847-1902), who was born in Iowa and moved to Oregon in 1852, in Clatskanie. They married in 1873. After a short stint in Nehalem on the Oregon coast, the Tinkers moved north to the peninsula.

In 1883 the Tinkers opened their first hotel, a two-story wooden building with a tower (presumably for the view) located southeast of where the Bolstad Street and Pacific Avenue intersection lies today (2011). It was known as Tinker's Hotel for a short time, then the Long Beach Hotel. Decades later, someone identified only as "E. L." would reminisce in the Oregonian in an article titled "Do You Remember":

"When Long Beach, Wash., was a veritable East Portland Camp, when many East Portlanders lived in tents during the vacation season, and Mr. Tinker, with his beautiful chin alfalfa, met the boats at Ilwaco and carried us up the beach in a lumber wagon?" ("Do You Remember").

In the 1890s other hotels filled in the area between Seaview and The Breakers on the north side of Long Beach. The Ilwaco Railroad and Steam Navigation Company operated a railroad between Ilwaco and Long Beach beginning in 1888, and it was extended on to Nahcotta in 1889. Although never particularly speedy or reliable, the Clamshell Railroad, as it was known, carried people to Long Beach and other settlements on the peninsula for holidays, along with dogs, horses, and cows.

Hotel Fire

On December 19, 1895, the hotel burned, and according to the Olympian,

"Mr. Tinker's children had a narrow escape in the hotel fire at Long Beach last week. The fire broke out in the room they usually occupied, but fortunately owing to a leak they had been removed to another bedroom. When Mr. Tinker arose he rushed upstairs to the children's room and succeeded in getting them to a place of safety. When rescued they were almost suffocated with smoke" ("State News").

The Tinkers built a new, larger hotel the next year. It had 40 rooms and featured bowling alleys and "hot sea baths" ("Famous Hotel Bought").

Fishing, Racing, and Chasing Paper

In addition to the Long Beach Hotel, tourists could stay at the Portlander, The Breakers, and the Driftwood Inn in Long Beach. These large, elegant hotels offered full services to their guests, including three meals each day. Many offered entertainment and activities, such as a paper chase (also known as hare and hounds). This involved someone, the "hare," dropping a trail of paper pieces. The "hounds" would then try to catch the hare by following the paper trail through the woods and dunes and along the beach. In the 1910s, the unbroken miles of sandy beach also attracted motorists, who raced their cars and motorcycles on the smoothest, straightest stretches of land in the region.

Visitors were entertained by the area's unique attractions, such as the Fishing Rocks (a natural rock formation that jutted out into the water and has since been covered by accreted sand), 28 miles of beach, and occasional beached whales and shipwrecks, as well as more familiar amenities such as bath houses, boats for rent, and a shopping district.

Changing Times

After 1900, a long, slow change in the demographics of Long Beach visitors and the accommodations they sought began. By about 1925, increased rail and road service to the Oregon Coast drew the Portland tourists south. At the same time, new roads connecting the Long Beach Peninsula with the Washington interior brought new tourists from Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, and the many towns that now line Interstate 5 to the south of Olympia.

These tourists tended not to stay as long, nor did they seek the same full service that the  summer-long visitors had expected. Several hotels closed in the 1910s. The Long Beach Hotel remained open, adding "and Tavern" to its name during these years.

According to an Oregonian article from 1934, Tinker's daughter, Della Deputy (1887-1976), ran the hotel after his death in 1924 until it was sold in 1934 to H. J. Lorenzon and Albert Errickson. In 1947 the hotel was advertised for sale again in the Oregonian. It appears that the Long Beach Hotel and Tavern stayed in business until 1963, when it was torn down and retail development built in its place.

Sources: Richard H. Engeman, The Oregon Companion: A Historical Gazetteer of the Useful, the Curious, and the Arcane (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2009), 336; Mike Davison, "The Railroads of Grays Harbor, 1880-1900," The Railroads of Grays Harbor website accessed September 28, 2010 (; Nancy Lloyd, Observing Our Peninsula's Past: The Age of Legends through 1931 (Long Beach: The Chinook Observer Centennial Project, 2003); Lucile McDonald, Coast Country: A History of Southwest Washington (Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1966); "Do You Remember," The Oregonian, August 18, 1921, p. 12; "Famous Hotel Bought," The Oregonian, April 15, 1934, p. 3; "Founder of Resort Dies," The Oregonian, April 28, 1924, p. 6; "Long Beach Plans Park," The Oregonian, April 10, 1921, sec. 6, p. 5; "Long Beach Wakes to Its Advantages," The Oregonian, April 9, 1922, p. 9; The Oregonian's Handbook of the Pacific Northwest, ed. by Edward Gardner Jones (Portland: The Oregonian Publishing Co., 1894), 303; "State News," Olympian, December 17, 1895, p. 4; "Hundreds at Long Beach," The Oregonian, August 22, 1920, sec. 4, p. 4.

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