Notable Events

Image of Depoe Bay road through burned trees due to 1936 fire

The Great Fire of ‘36

In late September of 1936, a great fire threatened Depoe Bay. The fire was one of many that burned along a 25—mile front in the coast range, south to California. The fire burned for six days before suddenly flaring into an inferno which quickly spread in all directions. Before the fire reached Depoe Bay, it burned for six days, burning approximately five miles east, and had a two and a half-mile front on the west. Fanned by a hot east wind which at times reached 35 MPH, the fire raced into Depoe Bay with a roar. Over 200 men battled the blaze. Using small but powerful pumps placed at every accessible stream and in the bay, firefighters succeeded in saving Depoe Bay from destruction after the blaze jumped the highway and started burning south of the bridge. Several homes caught fire, but the flames were subdued. Twelve families were left destitute by the fire. There are two versions as to how the fire got started. One is that someone set a shingle mill on fire; the mill was three-quarters of a mile east of town. A second version is that a homesteader’s cabin caught fire. Both versions claim that forest fire officials refused to take the situation seriously over a week before it hit Depoe Bay, saying that it would burn itself out shortly.

Friendly Relations During the Cold War

On April 27, 1971, a Russian vessel stationed 18 miles due west of Depoe Bay radioed shore that their senior engineer, Vladimir Schkoore, was in need of hospital care. The officer was taken to the hospital in Newport, where he received an emergency appendectomy. He celebrated his 33rd birthday while recovering on shore. On May 14, Officer Schkoore was well enough to return to his ship, and the Jimco II, a Depoe Bay fishing boat owned and skippered by Fred Robison, returned him to his vessel, the 180-foot Pagraniski Yermalucke. Once the Jimco had been maneuvered out of the harbor, Captain Robison turned the wheel over to the Russian officer.

Record Snow and Chill

In December of 1972, snow fell to a record depth of four feet in drifts, and an all-time-low temperature of seven degrees below zero.

The Town Becomes Incorporated

Attempts to incorporate the community into a city began in 1963, and continued in 1966, but both attempts failed. The failed attempts were blamed on concerns that a heavy city tax would be levied to finance employee’s salaries and other expenses, although proponents claimed otherwise, stating that the mayor and Council members would serve without pay, and the only foreseeable paid employees would be positions that were already paid under separate districts. Proponents also agreed that incorporating would give residents the opportunity to control their own town and harbor. Incorporation was finally achieved on May 22, 1973 when voters in a special election approved incorporation by a vote of 175-for to 53-against.

The first City Council was elected on July 31, 1973. It consisted of Graham Ainslee (136 votes), Stephen Cottrell (108 votes), Edward Kosack (108 votes), Robert Jackson (100 votes) and Jean Quinn (85 votes). Shortly thereafter, Stephen Cottrell was selected to be the City’s first mayor.  Councilor Ainslee represented the water district and worked on the Highway 101 parking problem; Councilor Kosack worked with the Port Committee, which negotiated with the Port of Newport over property rights along the harbor; Councilor Quinn was Chairman of the Finance Committee; and Councilor Jackson was in charge of drawing up the City Charter, which was approved by a vote of the people. Councilor Jackson also set up Committees for zoning and planning, although a Planning Commission was not established at that time.

The new Council appointed Veretta Howard as City Recorder and Municipal Judge. In those early days, that first Council decided not to ask the people of the town for a (property) tax base, and Councilor Jackson announced the City would operate on a budget of around $12,000 per year from State revenues on the sale of gasoline and liquor. The Council held a regular meeting on the first Monday of each month at 8 PM in the Water Department building.

By 1976, the City was investigating bringing in various districts such as sanitary and water. Revenue of around $25,000 was brought in through transient hotel-motel tax, franchise fees, the tobacco-alcohol tax, federal revenue sharing, and gasoline tax.

Other mayors that have served Depoe Bay are:  Jean Quinn (1975-76), Robert Jackson (1977-78, 1981-83, 1991-92, 1997-98), William Wahl (1979-1983), James McNurlin (1983-86), Donald Wisniewski (1987-1991), Ron Nairn (1993-96), Gary Hoagland (1999-2000), John Steen (2001-2002), Bruce Silver (2003-04), Jim White (2005-2010), and Carol Connors (2011-2012).

Depoe Bay in the Movies

Some of the locals still remember when Sometimes a Great Notion was filmed in the area in 1970, and Hollywood great Paul Newman was a frequent visitor to a Depoe Bay restaurant. After that, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest starring Jack Nicholson was filmed in Depoe Bay in 1975. In 2008, a Depoe Bay restaurant was used as a set for several scenes in The Burning Plain starring Charlize Theron.