The historic summer retreat of former Governor Oswald West’s is as recognizable to many visitors as Haystack Rock or the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Though many might not know the historic significance it is has become an iconic part of Cannon Beach – the home that everyone wants to see.
The Cannon Beach History Center & Museum was lucky enough to feature this home on the 2014 Cottage & Garden Tour. Attendees walked the wood floors, and spoke with the wonderful homeowners. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, “Lucky.” This beautifully appointed log cabin was a treat to see, not only for the unobstructed breath taking views of the coastline and Haystack Rock, but for its unique design and history.
Governor Oswald West originally constructed the home as a summer getaway for his family in 1913. West, was a go-getter from a very early age. Born in Ontario Canada, West and his family first moved to Oregon in 1877, when he was just four years old. He started school almost immediately and left at age fifteen to begin a career in banking. He worked in Salem and Astoria, Oregon, and eventually landed a position as the State Land Agent in 1903. West gained a reputation as an honest man who did not tolerate corruption of any kind. This reputation eventually garnered him the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1910. West eventually defeated his opponent, Jay Bowerman, and ended up taking office in 1911 and served as Governor of Oregon until 1915.
During his time as Governor West implemented a new parole system for prisoners, abolished capital punishment, was an active participant in the women’s suffrage movement, and prohibited alcohol in the state of Oregon. A very active term with these projects alone, but West’s most memorable and lasting legacy was his desire to protect Oregon’s beaches. West established a beach bill in 1913 that was Oregon’s beach highway law, which declared the entire Pacific coastline to the high tide to be public highway. This law remains in effect today. This law later came into play with Oregon’s thirtieth governor, Tom McCall and the “beach bill” (more on that in a different article.)
It is believed by some, that the inspiration for West’s beach law was his summer retreat. West had fallen in love with Cannon Beach during his time spent as a banker in Astoria, Oregon. In 1912, West and his wife Mabel purchased an acre of land just south of Cannon Beach. By 1913, West had finalized plans for a log house, barn, and springhouse.
The home was originally constructed as an Adirondack-style log cabin and was considered to be quite extravagant; the home was quite large when compared to the cottages being built at the time. The home was originally forty by forty-eight feet with two stories and two beautiful hand-made stone fireplaces. The home was sold in 1926 to Robert and Blanche Ellis, who did little to the property. It was sold once more just ten years later to Dr. Harry M. Bouvy an ear, nose and throat doctor. Bouvy made several improvements to the home while keeping the rustic log cabin design that West had in mind. Descendants of Dr. Bouvy still own the home today.
Sadly, on May 30th, 1991 a sixteen year-old arsonist burned the historic home to the ground. Fifty-five years of family history went up in flame. Many in Cannon Beach can recall looking up to where that historic log cabin used to be and seeing a skeleton of charred wood, hollowed and forlorn. The home was almost completely destroyed. Due to the extent of the damage, the family was unable to utilize much of the original materials. In what could have been a devastating loss of history, the family banded together to rebuild an exact replica of the home they grew up in. To have the exact replication of the original cabin, the family went with the architectural firm in Portland of Fletcher, Farr, and Ayotte. The reconstruction began with extensive field documentation and salvaging samples, and the cabin was authentically recreated. Virtually all of the materials used in the original cabin were repeated in the recreation including the logs and porch columns, which were made out of Sitka spruce logs obtained near Tillamook. The reconstruction of the cabin was technically completely in 1995, but the fine-tuning continued.
The spectacular results of the recreation earned the cabin second prize in the exterior rehabilitation category of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 1996 Great American Home Awards. The replica was so exact that many, who visited Cannon Beach didn’t notice a difference, in fact, only a few realized the level of painstaking effort and love that went into rebuilding this iconic Cannon Beach Home.
Now, rightly called the West-Bouvy Cabin, the home sits as a testament to the love and hard work of one family to save a home that was not only an important part of their childhood, but of Cannon Beach’s unique history. For those in the history biz, this is a rare thing and for this reason, I believe this home is one of the Seven Wonders of Cannon Beach.