The Eight Ages of Oysterville

Nov 11, 2014 | 0 comments

At Village Entrance

At Village Entrance

Judge Turner’s decision yesterday to uphold the County’s permitting of another short term vacation rental (STVR) in Oysterville has given me cause (once again) to ponder that Great Nemesis of Aging: Change. Nyel and I had appealed that STRV decision when it was made in July and the wheels of justice finally ground out an answer we had feared.

Our trepidation is based on two things: the preponderance of part-time owners (and the great potential for additional vacation rentals in the village) and the problems being faced nation-wide by the flourishing Airbnb trade.  We were hopeful that Oysterville’s status as a National Historic District, the fact that it is zone R-1 (Restricted Residential), and public outcry might be in our favor. They were not.

Abe Wing and James Johnson, 1880s

Abe Wing and James Johnson, 1880s

So, I’ve been thinking about the changing face of Oysterville since its founding by Espy and Clark in 1854.  This is the way I see it… at least for now.
THE BOOM YEARS, 1850s and 1860s – men came by the score to make their fortunes in the oyster “treasure” of Shoalwater Bay and left when they did… or didn’t. It was a time of boarding houses, bawdy houses and saloons.
THE SETTLEMENT YEARS, 1870s and 1880s – as family men sent for their wives and children, a school and a church were built, cabins and shacks gave way to more substantial homes, and gardens appeared. Oysterville took on an air of stability.
THE MOVING-ON YEARS, 1890 and 1900s – with the loss of the County Seat and the railroad terminating four miles south in Nahcotta, government officials moved out as did storekeepers and their stores. Boarding houses and hotels closed, as did restaurants and saloons. With ‘no news’ in Oysterville, the Pacific Journal, too, moved on.
THE SUBSISTENCE YEARS, 1910s to 1930s – those who stayed in Oysterville were content with the few jobs available, small farms, or provided services of one kind or another for their neighbors – the grocer, the postmaster, the mechanic.

Northern Oyster Company 1940s

Northern Oyster Company 1940s

October in Oysterville

Oysterville Church, 2013

THE YEARS OF RENEWED HOPE, 1940s and 1950s – Northern Oyster Company under local ownership flourished as did the Japanese oysters in the bay. Oysterville old-timers hoped for a resurgence of vitality in the village.
THE YEARS OF DECLINE, 1960s and 1970s – the population was mostly of retirement age and the buildings were becoming increasingly dilapidated. Gone were the small farms; even horses were few and far between, Oysterville was listed as a “Washington Ghost Town.”
THE HERITAGE YEARS, 1980s and 1990s – the establishment of the Oysterville National Historic District led to the village’s focus on preservation and restoration. The Oysterville Restoration Foundation, the County’s involvement through Ordinance 162 and the Oysterville Design Review Board gave impetus to an upsurge of interest (read new home buyers) in the town.
THE YEARS OF GENTRIFICATION, 2000s and 2010s – daffodils and daisies have replaced the blackberry bushes along the roadsides and full-time residents have become a rarity. Still, there are a few descendants of the Pioneer families keeping interest the old traditions alive. But for how long?  No doubt AGE NINE, when it comes, will bring something else entirely.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *