Thirteen miles southwest of Coos Bay/North Bend on the Cape Arago Highway, Shore Acres State Park is just one of dozens of the parks and recreation areas that line the coast. There is something for everyone at Shore Acres State Park, whether it’s experiencing the magic of the holiday season, admiring seasonal floral displays, reading the history of the area, or appreciating the rich variety of wildlife the area has to offer.
Coastal wildlife includes everything from resident sea lions, harbor seals, seagulls, and squirrels to migrating whales. Here’s nature at her finest!
Today, thanks to the Friends of Shore Acres, community volunteers, and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, brilliant floral and native evergreen plantings showcase the park – the former Louis Simpson estate.
The patriarch of the Simpson family, Asa Simpson, accumulated his wealth as a Coos Bay/North Bend lumber and shipping magnate. He groomed his son, Louis (L.J.) Simpson, to take over the business, and, in 1906, L.J. built a magnificent residence at the Shore Acres site.
The Simpson estate featured a saltwater pool and overlooked the bay below the deeply etched sandstone cliffs. Five acres of landscaped gardens were created to please L.J.’s wife, Cassandra. By 1915, the estate also included a state-of-the-art dairy farm.
The first palatial estate burned to the ground shortly after Cassandra Simpson’s death in 1921. L.J. remarried in 1922, and the newlyweds lived in the gardener’s cottage until a new home could be built on the original site.
However, a series of unfortunate events – including the financial crash of 1929, overwhelming debts, failing health, and bankruptcy in 1940 – precipitated the state of Oregon’s purchase of the land and its designation as a park in 1942. The state leased the second home to the War Department until the end of World War II, and then it was demolished.
The wood frame gardener’s cottage as well as the formal gardens, Zen-like pond, and All-America Rose Selection beds are all that remain.
There’s a particular tree worthy of special recognition at Shore Acres. If trees could talk, this large Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) could tell a tale or two about life at the L.J. Simpson estate more than a century ago. Boasting a height of 95 feet and a girth of 208 inches, the tree’s planting is estimated to have occurred near 1910, just four years after the estate was built.
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