Saturday, June 11, 2022

Competition for Bayocean's Natatorium

Bayocean Natatorium soon after construction. Image BOB95, Tillamook County Pioneer Museum.
On July 5, 1914, the Bayocean Natatorium offered heated, saltwater bathing to the public for the first time. The building was massive, taking up most of five oceanfront lots, and standing 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. It would become the resort's most popular attraction, but it was late to the game. 

Bayocean Natatorium interior. Culp 9, 
Lorraine Eckhardt collection. 
As news of Ashland Mineral Springs Natatorium construction reached Portland in 1909, Bayocean Park ads began promising one, but by the time it got built, three others were already operating on the Oregon Coast. Gearhart Park advertised theirs in the Oregonian for the first time on May 22, 1910. The one at Nye Beach began operating in 1912. The first of three built at Seaside was introduced by the Oregon Journal just a month before Bayocean's natatorium opened, on June 3, 1914. 

BOB 68, Tillamook County Pioneer Museum. 
T. Irving Potter tried to regain lost ground by inventing and installing a wave generator. 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 each year despite being popular. 

When the Rockaway Natorium was finished in 1926, most Tillamook County folks went there instead of Bayocean because it was much easier to get to. 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 caused by a winter storm collapsed its west wall, after which the wooden superstruction was deconstructed and used to build the Sherwood House on Cape Meares. Bayocean Natatorium's competitors all lasted longer, but the only one still operating is the second one built at Seaside. It now hosts the Seaside Aquarium.  

An earlier version of this article was posted on May 11, 2015.