By Lori Kimbel
After some pre-travel exploring online, we stumbled across the Historic Gilbert Inn website and knew it was just the kind of place we needed to stay before the long cold winter of northeast Oregon sets in; we were not disappointed with our choice.
The Queen Ann style home, built by Alexandre Gilbert, sits a short distance from the Seaside ‘Prom’ and the beach. The high rise condos that tower above her are no match to her elegant beauty.
The gentle Oregon Coast mist greeted us as we pulled into the drive and the Gilbert Inn was all the website said it would be and more. I realized instantly the sense of history and grandeur is a much better experienced in person.
The grand lobby, with its large fireplace, sitting areas and front desk were accented by the rich wood-covered walls. It was a lot to take in, and the explorer in me was loving every minute of it.
A testament to old world craftsmanship, the Gilbert Inn is filled with the regions natural resources. In the basement there are old growth beams that measure 2 ft. in diameter, set atop large, foundation block boulders taken from the nearby river. In the historical wing you will find tongue and groove fir on the walls and the ceiling. The “1880’s” room is the oldest part of the house and is what remains of the original cottage.
The offices, front desk area, lobby, solarium and other common areas on the main floor, make up what were once the parlor, dining area, kitchen and wrap around porch of the Gilbert’s family home.
Today, in the ‘Historic Wing’, the second floor consists of three guest rooms, a housekeeping room and a staircase leading to the large attic “Garret” room. All of which are decorated with a mix of vintage style wallpaper, four-poster beds, walls of old growth fir, decorative tile bathrooms and period style armoires and dressers.
In 1990 five new guestrooms were added, rooms two and three on the main floor, and rooms four, five, and six on the second floor in what is known as the “Cottage Wing”. The Gilbert Inn has a total of eleven rooms for their guests today.
Alexandre Gilbert was born in La Rochelle, France, on April 16, 1845. He married Emma Loncol in 1869. Three years later the two immigrated to San Francisco, where he became a carpenter and a cabinet maker.
While in San Francisco, he be built and established the Gilbert House, a hotel and boarding house.
In 1881 Alexandre and Emma moved to Astoria after hearing that land was ‘cheap’ in Oregon. He most likely fell in love with the area immediately as this part of the Oregon coast resembled his native France.
Mr. Gilbert built several homes in Astoria, where he and Emma and their three children spent their winters. During the summer months they would always retreat to Seaside where they could enjoy bon fires on the beach, clam-digging, beach combing and the weather.
They stayed at the modest two-room cottage on the beach, which Gilbert built in 1885, one that Gilbert would continue to build onto until one day, in 1892, it had become a grand Queen Anne style home, known today as Gilbert Inn.
One can only imagine the pride Alexandre Gilbert felt on that day, back in 1892, when he laid down his hammer, cleaned off his paint brush, and stood in his front yard looking up at the beautiful Victorian home he had just completed for his family. The crash of the ocean waves a short distance behind him and all the splendor of his fabulous home before him (with not even one condo in sight).
In 1908 the family permanently relocated to the up and coming resort town of Seaside where both Alexandre and Emma lived out the rest of their days, Emma passing away in 1917, and Alexandre passing away 18 years later, in 1935.
Little did Mr. Gilbert realized, that the house he had constructed with his own blood, sweat and tears, would still be welcoming guests 122 years later.
Although there are rumors of Gilbert being involved in some of the shanghaiing that took place in Astoria, Gilbert was a well-respected citizen of Seaside. He enjoyed dealing in real estate and he became involved in both politics and community service. He also gave considerable financial support to area schools and churches.
He was the mayor of Seaside during the fire of 1912 which destroyed much of downtown. He was also credited for leading the charge for Seaside as it rose from the ashes.
Gilbert deeded a one and a half mile stretch of land, which is now known as the “Prom” to the city. He hoped to have a 10 foot strip of walkway and a 30 foot strip of grassy lawns for families to picnic on.
As one of the founding fathers of Seaside, Alexandre Gilbert had a huge impact on Seaside, from the beautiful home he built, the business culture he created, the and the Prominade he envisioned, he left his mark and helped to make Seaside one of the top destinations on the Oregon Coast today.
The home stayed within the family until the 1970’s. Since that time it has changed ownership several times; the most recent proprietors, Antoine and Rocio Simmons, took ownership in March 2014.
By Lori Kimbel