You might have missed it a couple of weekends ago - the coastal retreat, or more accurately the "reconstructed" coastal retreat, of former Oregon Governor Oswald West, was open to the public. It's not particularly well publicized, but every year, generally in the fall, the owners open the residence to give visitors a glimpse of what the original log structure was like and to satisfy one of the basic requirements of Oregon's Special Assessment Program. That particular requirement stipulates that owners of buildings in the National Register of Historic Places hold a four-hour public open house annually for which they receive a tax break on the property.
In May 1991, the owners of the Oswald West property were in the process of working with the state to nominate the property to the National Register when an arson fire destroyed the original structure. The nomination went forward, however, and in 1992 the site, with its out buildings, but without the house, was listed in the National Register.
Following the devastating fire, the owners or shareholders (there's now five of them) decided to rebuild a faithful replica of the original log structure. David Durfee, who, along with his wife Ann, hosted the recent open house, said it took at least a year studying photographs and other historical documentation to arrive at a plan, and then almost another year to complete the new structure. Ann is a descendant of Dr. and Mrs. Harry M. Bouvy, who acquired West's Cannon Beach property in 1936. The reconstructed log house was occupied in Feb. 1995.
While most everything was destroyed in the fire, a portion of a log from West's weekend home was used for the fireplace mantel. A sewing machine and area rug were also salvaged and are on display in one of the upstairs bedrooms. The weekend home retains its indoor plumbing and electricity, not part of the home in Oswald West's day, but added on in later years after West sold the property in 1926. A new basement with concrete retaining walls and footings was constructed below the house. The basement was necessary to provide the owners with adequate storage space in an inconspicuous manner. Since there was little storage space in the original structure, a basement was chosen instead of making any modifications to the exterior.
The house sets precisely where it did when it was first built with its covered front porch facing the ocean and Haystack Rock, which appears to be just a stone's throw away. The landscaping and stone path leading to the westernmost edge of the property remain pretty much the same. While the new structure is far more airtight than the one that once stood, maintenance is an ongoing battle. Dry rot in some of the exterior logs at the southwestern corner of the house was discovered a decade later after reconstruction. Repairs ran into the thousands, according to Durfee.
Aside from the annual open house not being well publicized, the house is not easy find either. One must know where they're going or go with someone who does. While the structure itself is a faithful reproduction to the weekend retreat of the state of Oregon's 14th governor, the surrounding area, once home to an impressive stand of timber, is now a sea of homes. However, the view from the covered front porch remains unchanged and one is left to wonder how many times the family of Oswald West gathered there to cast their eyes on the mighty Pacific and Haystack Rock.