A cozy, white beach cottage built in 1908 still stands in the Presidential area of Cannon Beach, and speaks to a time when beach life was all about relaxation and spending time with the family.
Bonnie Nook, a vintage cottage on Monroe Street, started as a summer tent camp for the Gumm family. A single mother of eight, Sarah Gumm, came over from Portland on a stagecoach, and asked the driver to let her off near Monroe.
“She asked if there was a place to put a tent up,” Sarah’s granddaughter and long-time Cannon Beach resident, Sue Reed said in a Cannon Beach History Center oral history interview. The family built a tent platform and put up a tent in 1905 or 1906, Reed said.
The tent home was right near the McKay house, and the site was chosen for precisely that reason. “My grandmother said, ‘Oh, I know her. She’s a nice lady,’” so they picked a spot close to their house, Reed said.
The Gumm’s continued to spend their summers in Cannon Beach for several years, and finally had used lumber delivered from Portland, which was dropped off at the foot of Monroe and carried to the tent site by Sarah and her brood.
The family constructed the cottage themselves, and initially named it Fern Basket, because of the nest of ferns and trees that surrounded the house
“It was actually a pretty good house, considering none of them really knew what they were doing,” Reed said. “It had the most awful teeny, tiny fireplace in the corner, which was absolutely useless.”
Reed remembers good times chronicled in family stories from the early days.
“There were a lot of fun, fun parties at the McKay’s house,” Reed said, which was next to Bonnie Nook. They had a large family and the girls used to dress up in pretty dresses and do “what they considered wonderful ballet” as well as other performances for the guests, Reed said.
Over the years, each of Reed’s aunts purchased their own properties in Cannon Beach, one of which built right next to Bonnie Nook, and some who tented on the front of Jackson Street on into the 1920s, Reed said.
Her parents bought the lot behind the Bonnie Nook, built a house which is still standing, and sold it in the 1950s, Reed said.
Currently, Bonnie Nook, one of the oldest houses still standing in Cannon Beach, is close to its original form, says current owner Gary White. White, with his wife, rents the property to vacationers, and many of the original furniture pieces are still in the home.
“The original building was not even close to building codes,” White said. “The house was originally built on tops of stumps of redwood trees that eventually rotted out. We had to redo the foundation. Raccoons occupied the place before we bought it.”
The windows on the front of the house are also original, and from the outside, it looks much as it did in 1908. Of course, additions have been made to enlarge the cottage, and bringing the building up to code took a little work, but it has held up surprisingly well, White said.
Bonnie Nook was featured on the 2004 Cannon Beach Cottage Tour, which to date has opened 61 historic cottages for public view. The 2010 Tour will feature cottages of Tolovana Park.
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. Families like the Gumm’s established Cannon Beach as a destination resort, without even knowing it, and homes like Bonnie Nook still remind us all of the quaint, family appeal of sunny summers on the North Coast.