Editor’s note: Call destinations before you visit to make sure they’re open. Stay posted on what Oregon’s new COVID-19 guidelines mean for you, and follow these steps for social distancing outdoors. Also, remember to bring your face covering, required for all of Oregon’s public indoor spaces and outdoors when keeping 6 feet of distance isn’t possible. Here’s what to know about Oregon’s outdoors right now.
In a world where your ability to multitask is a badge of honor, the art of the stroll has been all but lost. But not in Seaside.
On any given day, you can find families and visitors of all ages partaking in the centuries-old pastime, walking at a turtle’s pace, stopping to peer inside a store or dipping into a shop for ice cream. The tradition persists thanks to Seaside’s famous Promenade — 1.5 scenic miles of paved, accessible walkway that stretch the length of town from Avenue U to 12th Avenue. With its panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and vibrant mix of classic and newer businesses, experiencing the Prom is one of the Coast’s most enduring traditions.
“It’s always been a part of Seaside, and I think the most important part, because so few towns have that beautiful walk along the ocean,” says Seaside resident and local historian Gloria Stiger Linkey.
The Prom will mark its official Centennial Celebration on Aug. 7, 2021, with a dedication ceremony and parade. All year long, though, visitors can enjoy self-guided Prom-centric activities adhering to social distancing and other COVID-19-safe protocols. Each and every overnight visitor to Seaside through the end of 2021 is eligible to win one of four sweepstakes prize packages (one for each season) in the Great Prom Centennial Sweepstakes. While the historic anniversary comes during the COVID-19 pandemic, know that the Prom has already stood witness to a World War, previous pandemics and numerous natural disasters, including the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, 85 miles east, visible in Seaside.
A Hundred Years of History
The Prom began as a boardwalk built in 1904 that connected to Pacific Pier, a wooden pier that jutted into the ocean. At the time, Seaside’s beach was shorter than the 800 feet of sand it is today, so the boardwalk also acted as a seawall. In those days visitors came by train, and fathers returning to work in Portland each week helped the Monday route earn the nickname “Daddy Train.”
In 1920 the boardwalk, which was in constant need of repair from ocean damage, began to be replaced with the concrete walkway that exists today. The pier, which finally succumbed to the elements in 1914, occupied the spot where the present-day Turnaround was built. Marked by a statue of Lewis and Clark commemorating the end of the Oregon Trail, the site is a favorite for photo opps and meeting up with friends. “For building this thing, they used horse teams to transport concrete and rock,” Dale McDowell, Seaside’s public works director, says of the Turnaround. “A majority of the work was manual labor, with men working for 15 cents an hour.”
There were no concrete plants when the Prom was being constructed, so cement had to be mixed on-site. This past year it got a bit of a face-lift, as public works crews stripped the Prom of its coatings down to its original concrete and found round rock, large air pockets and even a free-floating wooden board. It left McDowell intrigued. “What did they make their cement out of?” he says. “How did they crush their rock?”
Some details may be lost to time, but others remain strong in the memories of locals. From 1937 to 1947, Stiger Linkey lived in a house along the Prom. Without a television, her entertainment was her window. She sat transfixed as men walked by in suits and ties, arm in arm with women in shirtdresses and legs painted to look like nylons. Everyone wore a hat and gloves. “It was kind of a social event,” she says. “Everybody walked the Prom on a Saturday night. They’d walk downtown to the Turnaround, down Broadway, look at everything and come back.”
She remembers visiting the natatorium, an indoor saltwater pool for winter swimming, and covering up her home’s windows during World War II for fear of attack. She stood on the Prom and watched from afar as the Japanese bombarded Fort Stevens, 14 miles north near Astoria.
Timeless Traditions Continue
Today the Prom provides just as much entertainment as it did decades ago. Jeremy Strober, property manager of the family-owned Seashore Inn, which sits along the Prom, says he regularly becomes hypnotized by the flurry of activity — from Rollerbladers and hand-holding couples to street performers and master sandcastle makers. “Sometimes, I’ll catch myself looking out the window, and I’ll have to sort of slap myself to get back to work,” he says. “The greatest joy is seeing families. I remember seeing a little kid stepping in the sand for the first time. The joy and the fear and the intrigue was so powerful.”
Witnessing the Prom at night, he says, is an experience unto itself. During the summer, groups of people gather on the beach for campfires, and street lights illuminate the walkway, making for a safe late-night stroll. During a winter storm, he says, there’s nothing better than taking in the unobstructed view from the comfort of your room, watching as the waves pound the shoreline. “There’s always something to look at. The activities slow a little, but it never stops,” Strober says.
As the perfect viewpoint for the city’s annual July 4th fireworks display and the famous finish line for the epic 199-mile Hood to Coast Relay race in August (check out details for 2021 events), the Prom is the backdrop for so many memorable occasions. It also holds the unique role of extending Seaside’s walkability and ADA accessibility to include the ocean — you can even reserve a beach wheelchair for your stay. “It invites the beach to the town and the town to the beach,” Strober says. “The Prom is really for the people. So many different people enjoy it for so many different reasons.”
Whether as a great path for a morning jog, an ideal spot to post up for sunset or the perfect place for a stroll with those you love, the city of Seaside invites visitors to enjoy the Prom for generations to come.
If You Go:
- Book your stay at any one of Seaside’s lodging options: hotels, motels, vacation rentals, campgrounds and RV parks. Find more info about what to expect at Oregon hotels during COVID-19.
- Your overnight stay acts as your entry to the Prom Centennial Sweepstakes. Check in at the Seaside Visitors Bureau at the intersection of Highway 101 and Broadway at any time during your stay to get a limited edition Prom Centennial booklet, your holographic centennial sticker, and your chance to win one of four epic Seaside getaways in 2021.
- Read up on tips for visiting Seaside safely and responsibly.