The Long and the North of It!

May 18, 2013 | 4 comments

Paul Staub’s map of the North Beach Peninsula on page 7 of “Legendary Locals of the Long Beach Peninsula”

If there’s one thing I’ve always hung my Historical Hat on, it’s the official versus the popular name of this Peninsula.  In almost everything I write, I find a way to point out that according to the United States Board on Geographic Names (under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior), our little finger of land is still legally and officially the North Beach Peninsula.  It is only due to a vigorous public relations campaign mounted by the city of Long Beach in the early twentieth century that we are now shown on local and regional maps as “Long” rather than “North.”

In fact, in my most recent book, published less than a month ago, I point out in paragraph one of the Introduction:  The tiny finger of land in the southwestern-most corner of Washington State is popularly known as the Long Beach Peninsula.  Officially, however, it is still the ‘North Beach Peninsula,’ so-named because it stretches northward from the mouth of the Columbia as opposed to the Oregon beaches to the south.   By whatever name, it is an area that gives rise to rugged individualists, independent thinkers, creative dreamers, and innovative problem-solvers.

Nevertheless, when it came to the book’s title, I had to capitulate to those pesky bottom line concerns.  I had to face the fact that a book called Legendary Locals of the Long Beach Peninsula would have more chance of selling than would “Legendary Locals of the North Beach Peninsula” – especially out in the greater world.

I wasn’t completely happy with the choice but marketing is marketing.  It didn’t occur to me that the book would be boycotted in certain local circles because of its title!  Fortunately, I think it’s just a small group of dyed-in-the-wool “North-Enders,” maybe even only two or three people.  And it’s mostly through the Oyster Shell Telegraph (the local ‘grapevine’) that I know of their attitude.  That plus the fact that an advertising poster about the book displayed on the bulletin board Jack’s Country Store was defaced.

Apparently, someone took a felt-tipped marker, crossed out “Long” and wrote in “North” on the book’s title.  An employee noticed the graffiti and removed the poster, later substituting a new one.  The store is one of many businesses on the Peninsula that is selling the book, and though I haven’t had an opportunity to discuss the incident or the rationale behind the title with owner/manager Tom Downer, I’m pretty sure he and I would be shaking our heads in mutual astonishment at this bit of reaction.

North Beach Push Club Brochure circa 1910

North Beach Push Club brochure circa 1910

Years ago, when Tom first got serious in his campaign to restore the Peninsula’s official name, or at least to change it to something more neutral and less tied to just one location, he borrowed my North Beach Peninsula research file.  It contains copies of all the documents on file at the Board on Geographic Names dating back to 1950 and the earliest attempts by Roy Sheldon and the Ocean Park Chamber of Commerce to re-establish the “true, recorded name of this peninsula area.”

The fact that someone “corrected” a poster about my book that was displayed on Jack’s bulletin board seems doubly ironic to me.  I hope whoever did the dirty deed takes the time to actually read the book – or at least the book’s introduction.  Maybe the culprit would even learn something!


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    I noticed that Jack’s has a new poster up, high enough to keep it marker free. Unfortunately it is also high enough to be out of notice. I doubt if the culprit reads yours your blog and may not read much in general, but if they do they should be mollified.

  2. brigid

    You educated me, I had no idea why this would be called North Beach. Must have been named by mariners. The name Long Beach Peninsula became the common name, I guess because we can understand “long beach.” lol

    • sydney

      I’m always happy to “educate,” Brigid. lol North Beach Peninsula wasn’t named by mariners exactly, but the name did have to do with the way the earliest tourists got here — by water. In the mid-1800s, as the inland valleys of Oregon began to be settled, the pioneers found the summers too hot to bear and sought out the ‘moist marine air’ of the coast. The only way to get to the shore was by river and, when they arrived at the mouth of the Columbia, they had a choice — to go to the beaches to the north or to the south. The beaches to the south were not nearly as accessible — especially after Loomis put in his little railroad here — so they would come to the north. Hence we became the “North Beach Peninsula.” In the 1950s, the city of Long Beach tried to have the name officially changed to the “Long Beach Peninsula.” The Board on Geographic Names referred the matter to their Domestic Names Committee and after extensive review (7 years worth!) they concluded: “…before acting on this name the Board would want evidence that the several communities on the peninsula are in agreement on a name for it.” Knowing our communities, I doubt that such agreement will ever be reached!

  3. Caroline Miller

    First, congratulations on your new book. That’s always an accomplishment. As for North Beach or Long Beach, there’s nothing like a little controversy to sell a book. Maybe you could get some historical society somewhere to boycott the book. Look what a boycott did for Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.


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