Pacific Maritime & Heritage Center

A home for Newport’s history

It is fitting that a building housing a history museum should have a colorful history itself. Such is the case for the Pacific Maritime & Heritage Center on the Historic Bayfront in Newport. The stately green-grey building overlooking the fishing fleet has been a private estate, a nightclub, a restaurant, a decidedly unofficial hangout for local teens, and even the home of an off-track betting facility and Chippendale’s dancers.

When the Lincoln County Historical Society acquired the old Smuggler’s Cove nightclub, the property was, in a word, a mess. Luckily for locals and visitors alike, the Historical Society made the risky decision to forge ahead and fix it up. After more than eight years of slow fundraising and countless hours of volunteer time to keep the restoration going through the recession, the Pacific Maritime & Heritage Center opened in June 2013. It is stunningly gorgeous inside, open and light, a fitting home in which to house and explore Lincoln County’s maritime history.

Many of the artifacts currently on display were donated by the local community, and organizations tied to Newport. The result is a somewhat eclectic but beautifully curated set of items that span Lincoln County’s fishing, surfing, shipping, and tourism heritage. For example, the “Rescued, Recovered and Lost: Oregon Shipwrecks” exhibit features a fascinating display of artifacts from shipwrecks found in the area, and another recent installation consists of banners and weather detection instruments that are on indefinite loan from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Fluttering above one gallery is a series of colorful Japanese fishing flags, called “tairyouki,” that are traditionally flown by the Japanese fleet to express wishes for safety and a bountiful harvest. The flags were a gift from fishermen and a fishing company in Mombetsu, Japan, Newport’s
sister city. Below the flags is a guide to their symbolism.

This fall, visitors will find two new exhibits in the museum. One is called “Then and Now,” and is composed of a series of photographs of the Newport area from the 1940s through the 1980s, side-by-side with recently shot photos of the same places. Another is titled, “Our Beautiful & Wild Oregon Fisheries: 150 Years of Innovation,” and tells the story of Oregon’s successful emergence as a world leader in sustainable seafood and the very sound reasons for eating local seafood.

One of the best treasures of the center is the view from its enormous bay windows and outdoor deck. Visitors will be mesmerized by the expansive vista encompassing the bustling Historic Bayfront, the fishing fleet, and the bridge. At each vantage point, historical photos of similar views are displayed so visitors can see how that particular view has changed.

The building is much bigger than it appears from the street,with nooks and crannies and sections that seem to go on forever. Current exhibits are limited to the central floor of the three-story building, but the Historical Society won’t stop there.  As resources come in, they will add more gallery space downstairs and upstairs.

Newport looks forward to welcoming you! Click here for more info on visiting Newport.