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Take a stroll through Historic Old Town

Modified: Thursday, Nov 20th, 2014

Old Town Gazebo Park offers a great view of the Siuslaw River and historic bridge.

Tucked under the famed Siuslaw River Bridge is the heart of Florence ó Historic Old Town. Take a stroll along the riverside sidewalks and boardwalk for a glimpse of the town that sprung up here in the late 1800s.

The first pioneers in this region were taught to fish and collect food by the Native Indians of the Siuslaw Valley. Fishing became the mainstay as timber mills multiplied to keep up with the demand for lumber locally and throughout the West. The two industries formed the personality of the coastal town as well as the economy. Old Town saw the boom and the decline of these industries and reformed itself to preserve its heart and history.

The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center sits atop the entrance to Old Town. Stop by for information about every facet of this area.

A unique variety of shops, galleries and restaurants line Bay Street and the side streets, where some offer patio or sidewalk seating. The coffee houses are popular gathering spots, too. Through the summer and into early fall, browse the open-air markets. For a cool break, step into the Old Town pocket park and gazebo.

The Siuslaw Pioneer Museum is on Maple Street in a historic old schoolhouse. Also on this street are quaint shops that once housed the electric and telephone companies and stately homes that date to the Victorian era.

Near the landmark Siuslaw River Bridge, take a moment to view the Veterans Memorial Park. Motels, bed-and-breakfast inns and other vacation rentals provide constant and comfortable access to all Old Town has to offer.

Preserving History

Many of the popular establishments in Old Town have preserved their early 1900ís architecture. Several historic buildings are marked with signs explaining their heritage. The Waterfront Depot was actually once the Mapleton Train Depot and was transported to its site on Bay Street. The Bridgewater, still known as the Kyle Building, was the first mercantile here, built in 1901.

It overlooked the riverfront canneries and the ferry that once bustled in the town founded on the fishing and timber industries. Both buildings sit on Bay Street in full view of the Siuslaw River Bridge. At 278 Maple St., the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum is in the renovated 1905 schoolhouse, later known as the Callison building.

Also on Maple are the Johnson House, No. 216; the David House, No. 232; the Masonic Lodge, No. 184; and the old Electric Company, now The Hen House at No. 129. The big yellow house at No. 168 was a boarding house in 1910 and now houses Redís Barber Shop.

Strolling the Boardwalk

Visitors seeking a peaceful stroll or a supreme place to observe the local waterfront should head for the Port of Siuslaw boardwalk in Historic Old Town. Overlooking the commercial moorage basin, nearly an acre of land ó fixed with a walkway that includes benches and lighting ó offers the perfect spot for gazing out over the Siuslaw River as well as viewing the portís daily operations.

Multiple landings just off the boardwalk will lead visitors directly to the docks, where you can wander through the tied up boats, go crabbing and fishing or, if youíre lucky, catch a glimpse of seals, herons and other creatures.

From spring to early fall, the grassy area of the site features an outdoor market, showcasing local arts and crafts, handmade clothing, gifts, fresh produce and food each weekend. During the annual Rhododendron Festival, the third weekend in May, the boardwalk and nearby parking lot transform into one of the largest carnivals on the coast. Rides, games and food concessions are offered throughout the festivities.

Each year the community gathers at the boardwalk on the Fourth of July to watch a spectacular fireworks show over the river, and during Christmastime, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus are known to visit the area to take photos with children and the young at heart.

Fishers, crabbers and boaters also use this area as the starting point to stock up on supplies, information and guides for heading up the Siuslaw River or down to the wide-open Pacific Ocean.

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Keywords: Historic Old Town, Siuslaw River Bridge, Boardwalk, Port of Siuslaw, Travel

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