Typically, the month of December means a time for thinking about the ending of an old year and looking forward to a new year ahead. It can also be a time for memories and reminiscing, so I am taking the time this December to dig deep into the archives of the Seaside Public Library. The roots of the Seaside Library started back in 1913, when Seaside was only a hundred or so houses. The roads were often “corduroy” roads or logs put down over mud to be driven over. The start of Seaside began with Ben Holladay’s “Seaside House” in the 1870s. Of course the area was settled long before that by the Quatat village that was in the Seaside area. It puts things in perspective to realize that only 30 years before this time, during the 1880s, Portland was referred to as having a population roughly the size of Astoria today (approximately 10,000 people).
Seaside was incorporated as a city in 1899 so the start of the first lending library in 1913 was after the city had been well established. The city had just recently gone through some very tough times. Jobs were scarce, and the saw mill had gone bankrupt in 1912. There was also a very large fire in 1912, in which 54 businesses, homes, and the Catholic Church were all destroyed.
1913 seems to have been a time for rebuilding. In 1913 the Seaside Library opened for business as a reading room in the Dresser building as part of the assigned duties of the matron who ran the public bathrooms. She assisted people with borrowing books and oversaw the “reading room.” No pun intended. George E. Shaver is noted as the original founder or “librarian” of the library (although the bathroom matron did the actual work), as well as the current Seaside civic improvement club president. Apparently in the beginning the library was open to civic club members only. This group of civic-minded people saw an opportunity with the opening of the public bathrooms to create a space for people to also share books. I believe the public restrooms were opened to assist people who took the railroad from Portland and Astoria. The round-trip price was $1 from Portland. Many people arrived in Astoria off boats either from Portland or the ocean and would take the railroad to explore the south county area. This seems to be a precursor to the cruise ships of today that load people on buses and bring them into the south county area.
Mr. Shaver, the original librarian seems to have been a well-known local society person and his death in 1923 made the front page of the Seaside Signal. In addition to helping start the library, he and his wife, Lena, were very active in society. Mr. Shaver was a member of the Seaside Civic Improvement club, the Episcopal Church, Eastern Star, Knights of Pythias, Knight Templars and a Shriner. In one society blurb, Mrs. Shaver was reported in July 1910 in the Morning Oregonian to have attended a wedding near Vernonia and “cut ices” for the guests. She was known as an artist and Mr. Shaver’s occupation was that of a painter.
George E. Shaver and his wife seem to have been committed to their civic duties. We can thank them, at least in part, for starting the Seaside Library. From humble beginnings, the Library was born in the little reading room off the public bathrooms. The very first library in Seaside was located in the old Dresser building on Holladay where McKeown’s restaurant stands today.
Historical information courtesy of the Seaside Museum and Historical Society and Seaside Signal.