|Constructed in 1956, the Depoe Bay Ocean Wayside on U.S. Highway 101 in downtown Depoe Bay is significant statewide under National Register Criterion A, Entertainment and Recreation, as a physical embodiment of the Oregon State Highway Department’s dual objectives to both construct public facilities to provide services to motorists traveling along the state’s roads and to develop scenic sites and encourage public use of Oregon’s natural resources. This was a significant shift in the approach to state parks development in Oregon, attributed to its second superintendent, Chester Armstrong. It is also significant under Criterion C, Architecture as a pivotal example of an Oregon State Wayside that was purpose-built as a combination concession, comfort station, and observation point whose design consciously respected and responded to the natural environment. The period of significance is 1956-1960, encompassing the year of its construction and reflecting Chester Armstrong’s leadership years.
The Depoe Bay Ocean Wayside is the only state wayside constructed during the postwar period designed to serve the rapidly increasing ranks of the motoring public, while specifically taking advantage of a unique scenic vista – in this case, the world’s smallest navigable harbor at Depoe Bay. It is significant under Criterion A in the areas of Entertainment and Recreation as a reflection of the Oregon State Highway Department’s dual mission of providing services for motorists and actively encouraging visitation to scenic locations in the state. The active promotion by local and state agencies of auto-based tourism, a new emphasis on highway and park development, and continued pleas by the residents of Depoe Bay, culminated in 1955 when the Oregon State Highway Commission finally agreed to construct a rest stop there. However, the resulting building is more than a bathroom with a view. It reflects a new integrated approach to highways and state parks. Responsible for both the development and maintenance of the state highway system and state parks, the Oregon State Highway Department sought not only to provide an efficient road system, but also to encourage travel to Oregon’s scenic places. The Depoe Bay Ocean Wayside is an example of the blending of these two missions. The building accommodates the highway by providing an easily accessible rest stop on a popular tourist route, while it offered access to Oregon’s natural beauty through its scenic location. Its construction in the mid-1950s reflects the economic revival that followed World War II and increasing recreational use of automobiles. The popularity of the car added significant traffic to Oregon’s roads and required the increased development of state highways. Improved roadways granted drivers new access to remote natural areas, which encouraged the emergence of developed scenic vista points and state parks as local attractions, not simply rest stops. Recognized as Oregon State Parks’ first development-minded superintendent, Chester Armstrong set policy in the 1950s that made possible the integration of state parks and highways, and subsequently, the Depoe Bay Ocean Wayside.
The building is also significant under Criterion C in the area of Architecture as an excellent example of a full-service, purpose-built wayside designed to be modern in its appearance, yet to respond to its environment. One of two buildings of its type in the Oregon state parks system, and the only example from the postwar period, the building’s low profile, large picture windows, and minimal decoration is highly evocative of the aesthetic of the 1950s. This design was not imposed on the site, however; rather careful attention was paid to both taking advantage of and preserving the panoramic ocean view. Set on a rocky outcrop, the Depoe Bay Ocean Wayside perches above the Pacific Ocean atop a concrete seawall, offering ocean views to the north, east, and south. However, the Oregon State Highway Department ensured that the building’s ideal location did not detract from the scenic view from U.S. 101 by locating the building six feet below the road and the bathrooms below grade in order to minimize the building’s height. The design itself also compliments the scenery. The low and horizontally-oriented silhouette mimics the ocean itself, and this effect is emphasized by the ribbon of windows wrapping around the building, accented by the original painted turquoise band, the pipe railing along the rooftop observation deck, and decorative scoring on the exterior concrete walls. Responding to the harsh environment, the building was constructed of reinforced, poured concrete, sturdy double-pane windows, and corrosion-resistant materials to withstand the beating surf and punishing winds.