After we tore around the sand for a few hours midday, we had a couple hours left before it would get dark. A Cherokee friend who lives in the area had suggested the day before that we go see the garden at Shore Acres State Park at Cape Arago if we got the chance. It’s a 30 minute drive from North Bend, and it is worth the trouble.
A series of information panels inside an observation building at the cape tell the interesting story of the Simpsons, who established a magnificent mansion overlooking the sea with the adjacent gardens. It all began with the elder Simpson, who came to California in the gold rush of 1848, and quickly realized there was more money to be made selling goods to the miners than from mining. He became wealthy and taught his son L.J. the lumber business. L.J. became manager of the mill and shipyard by 1900.
L.J. married Cassie and the two of them were the highest of society in North Bend, Oregon. He built her a magnificent mansion overlooking the sea. Today, an observation building occupies that spot, where I read the information panels.
Cassie named the site Shoreacres, and today it is called Shore Acres, and is part of the Oregon Parks system. The Simpsons’ gardener, David Masterton, designed the English-style gardens. The couple welcomed the public to the gardens and frequently entertained at their place, until the 1920s turned their lives around. Cassie became ill and died in 1921. The house burned to the ground three months later, and only half of the loss was covered by insurance. Determined to make a new start of things, L.J. remarried and built another magnificent mansion on the same spot in 1927.
The 1929 stock market crash hit the Simpsons hard and they gave a portion of their land to the state of Oregon. A wildfire swept through and burned most of the buildings except for the mansion and the gardener’s cottage in 1936. They sold the rest of the property in 1942 to the state for a low price and moved to a new town. They could have easily sold it to a private buyer and made a nice profit, but the Simpsons wanted to be sure that Oregonians could continue to enjoy the place. The second mansion was in such poor condition that it had to be razed in 1948.
In the 1970s, Oregon Parks landscapers came and restored the gardens. Ever since, it has been maintained beautifully and is open to the public for only a $5 parking fee.
Behind these nicely sculpted areas is a large rose garden, but at this time of year it looks like a thorny stick garden, so I have not included a photo. Nearly everything here looks as though it makes a blossom and indeed a sign at the entrance says that there should be something in bloom anytime of year that you visit.
My friend says that there is a nice holiday lights display that is an annual attraction, so that’s a reason to visit in December, if you needed more reasons.
Around the observation building and the parking area, there are wide expanses of grassy areas that would be perfect for kids and dogs in the warmer months. The history is just as interesting as the current experience, and with outstanding views in every direction, and just 30 minutes away from Highway 101, and a very reasonable fee, this is certainly a place I recommend to anyone else who happens to be in Oregon.