Sunday, September 24, 2023

Competition for Bayocean's Natatorium

Bayocean Natatorium. BOB95, Tillamook County
Pioneer Museum.
On July 5, 1914, the Bayocean Natatorium offered heated, saltwater bathing to the public for the first time (it opened a day earlier, but the boiler didn't work, so it was a chilly dip for those who initiated it). The building took up five oceanfront lots and was more than two stories high. A balcony let folks watch swimmers and kids paddling inflatable canoes around during the day and enjoy movies on a screen pulled down from the rafters at night. Sometimes bands played there. The Bayocean Natatorium quickly became the resort's most popular attraction. 

Seaside's first natatorium was the two-story
part of the Turnaround Building, on the right
(south) side of this photo. The Trendwest Resort
stands there now. Seaside Museum image.
Bayocean Park ads started promising a natatorium after news that construction of Ashland Mineral Springs Natatorium - the first in Oregon -had begun reached Portland in 1909. But 
by the time it was finished, three others operated along the Oregon Coast. Gearhart Park started advertising its little natatorium in the Oregonian on May 22, 1910. The one at Nye Beach opened in 1912. J.S. Oates placed the first ad for his Seaside Natatorium in the Oregon Journal on June 3, 1914. That allowed him to claim its 40' x 80' pool was the largest in the Pacific Northwest until Bayocean's 50' x 160' pool opened a month later. 

T. Irving Potter tried to regain lost ground by making his natatorium larger than the rest and installing a wave generator he invented. The first of its kind had been used at the outdoor Bilzbad baths in Radebeul, Germany since 1911, but Bayocean's was the first indoor application. Unfortunately, it was difficult to maintain and was offline more often than it worked. The rest of the structure also required constant maintenance, which is why it lost money every year it was open.

BOB 68, Tillamook County Pioneer Museum. 
the Rockaway Natatorium was finished in 1926, folks started going there instead of Bayocean because it was much easier to get to and better maintained. As a result, the Tillamook-Bayocean Company (a group of local businessmen) could find no one to lease Bayocean's natatorium, so it stayed closed in 1927 and never reopened to the public. In 1932, erosion that had been moving the waves closer for a decade undercut the west wall during a winter storm, causing it to collapse. The building was later deconstructed and used to build the Sherwood House on Cape Meares. Bayocean Natatorium competitors all lasted longer, but t
he only one still standing is the second one built at Seaside, which now hosts the Seaside Aquarium.  

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