The early 20th century was an uncomplicated time for Cannon Beach. It was an era of families, friends, and the simple life. Families who, at this time, traveled by stagecoach, wagon, or by foot. Long-time resident and author of Comin’ in Over the Rock, Peter Lindsey compares the journey from Seaside to Cannon Beach as “the Bataan Death March.” The road, barely more than a trail, was a muddy mess for most of the year. Despite the sad state of the roads, travelers paid the toll fees and made their way to the Elk Creek and Cannon Beach areas.
In 1903 a few intrepid businessmen founded the Elk Creek and Cannon Beach Land Company. They quickly platted the area from Elk Creek to Haystack Rock — just west of the present-day Coaster Theater. The developers offered plots that were fifty by one hundred feet for a mere $100 in hopes that they might encourage reticent travelers to come to the Cannon Beach area. And to whomever contructed the first home in the plat would have their $100 returned to them.
During this budding real estate market there was another area undergoing similar development, referred to as Brooklyn Camp, located originally between Van Buren and Monroe Streets. In Terrence O’Donnell’s book Cannon Beach: A Place by the Sea, he alleges that Brooklyn Camp incurred its name because many of the families that owned cottages in the area “were from the Brooklyn neighborhood in Portland.” O’Donnell goes on to say that this was Cannon Beach’s “first true ensemble of cottages.”
The Brooklyn Camp area was in use prior to the 1900’s by families in tent camps. The area was just north of Monroe Street, and as families returned year after year they eventually began to build houses, of sorts. Certainly not what we would consider a house by today’s standards. Tent camps continued to be a summer get away well into the 30’s.
Longtime residents Mick and Sue Reed have deep family ties to Cannon Beach, which date back over a hundred years. In an oral history interview given at the Cannon Beach History Center in 2008, Reed laughingly remarked on his family’s initial home inside the city, “it was a wooden house, but not much of a wooden house.”
To one familiar with the early structures in Cannon Beach’s history, this isn’t surprising. Many homes were entirely designed and contracted by families while they lived nearby in a neighbor’s home, which would most likely have also been pieced together just as roughly and non-expertly. Whatever the case, many of these homes survived.
The Brooklyn Camp was not officially platted until 1910 by August and Sarah Becker; water did not reach this area until 1912. An addition was purchased from the Cannon Beach Lands Company and included the areas around Laurel and Taft streets.
“Life was very simple,” says long-time Cannon Beach resident Sue Reed, during the same oral history interview with her husband. Mick and Sue Reed both grew up coming to Cannon Beach and have had family ties that date back to the town’s early days. Sue’s grandmother, Sarah Gumm, came to Cannon Beach on a stagecoach with her eight children, and then proceeded to build a large tent with a platform — a common summer residence for early Cannon Beach visitors.
In 1908 Sarah, Sue Reed’s grandmother, and her family would pick up lumber and supplies from the end of Monroe Street. These supplies would be carted back to the property that Sarah had acquired. Her home was originally dubbed the Fern Basket, and later the Bonnie Nook, which would last for over one hundred years. Despite the fact that Sarah and her family had no idea what they were doing architecturally, their home withstood hundreds of Oregon squalls, intermittent snowfall, and many seasons of happy families treading through the doors. The Bonnie Nook was featured in the 2004 Cannon Beach Cottage Tour and still had the fireplace that Sue said was completely useless.
Family homes like this will be featured in the 9th Annual Cottage Tour along with other historic cottages and beach dream-houses. To date, the Cottage Tour has opened the doors of 71 historic cottages for public view.
The stories told in the Cottage Tour speak to a simpler time, when summer travelers stayed throughout the warm months, rather than spending a quick weekend at the beach. Without knowing it, these families helped establish Cannon Beach as a destination resort. Homes like the Bonnie Nook still remind us all of the quaint, family appeal of sunny summers on the North Coast.