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Letter from Elk City: Holy Toledo!

By Staff | Jul 3, 2009

Boats of all kinds are docked at the Port of Toledo. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

ELK CITY, Ore. – Besides being famous for the $5 breakfasts at McBaron’s Tavern and the movie Sometimes a Great Notion, Toledo, Ore., hosts some major industries – all having to do with logging or shipping.

The Port of Toledo accommodates ships from as far away as Alaska. Ships find Yaquina Bay a good harbor and mooring at Toledo takes them away from the denser traffic downstream where the Yaquina meets the Pacific.

On any given day, you’ll see fishing trawlers, freighters, and pleasure boats at the slips, creating a picture postcard view reminiscent of the south coast of France or Portugal.

Logging is by far the biggest industry, though, with untold board feet passing through Toledo every year. The Georgia-Pacific paper mill processes pulp into paper for packaging and other purposes, employing around 400 workers in the town of 3,472.

Quaint shops and artisans abound in Toledo. One of the more prominent would be Sam Briseno who offers his original designs in steel on the T at the end of Main Street. Briseno has preserved the original LEADER BUILDING sign in honor of the newspaper that once served Toledo. The community is now served by the Newport News-Times.

The Yaquina Bay Hotel, which at first glance appears to be a prohibitively expensive hotel on Main Street, actually offers luxurious two-room suites for just $300 a week. The circa 1920 hotel features an 1890 piano in the lobby. Accommodations are elegant but comfy and some of the rooms have panoramic views of the Toledo skyline.

I envision the Yaquina Bay Hotel as the ideal place to come spend a month or so researching and writing a novel about the Pacific Northwest. In fact, I’ll probably do just that one day.

A number of Main Street museums chronicle Lincoln County’s past. Some humorous, some serious, the exhibits offer a close-up look at the people and their lifestyle as they tamed the Pacific Northwest.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Toledo is how established and elegant it is in a softly worn sort of way. It somehow has that aura of friendliness found in St. Paul, Minn., or other “older sibling” cities. Toledo’s younger sibling would of course be Newport which is growing far beyond anyone’s expectations of even a decade ago.

If you want to experience a Northwestern community with all the necessary accommodations, that’s a quick drive to the beach, and even has a little luxury to boot, Toledo is a good bet. It’s east of Newport, Ore., just off U.S. 20.