Story by Diane Disse, Lincoln County Historical Society
Binnacles, boat models, ship’s wheels, maritime art, vintage surfboards, and larger-than-life photographs fill the public spaces of the Pacific Maritime & Heritage Center, which will open Friday, June 28 at 11 a.m. Located on Newport’s Bayfront at 333 SE Bay Blvd., the Center is administered by the Lincoln County Historical Society.
“This museum has been a community project that got its start in 2004, and now we are putting the finishing touches on the main floor of this 28,000-square-foot facility,” Steve Wyatt, executive director of the Lincoln County Historical Society, said. “Renovation of this former mansion and night club slowed early on along with the economy, but this last year work has been going full steam,” he added.
The main public area contains maritime objects loaned by members of the community in an exhibit titled “Ship to Shore: Objects of a Maritime Community.”
“This community-based approach netted incredible gems of maritime history, many of which have never been seen by the public,” Wyatt said. “The eclectic, community-based maritime exhibit is reflective of the project,” he said.
In addition to maritime objects, the museum will open with 48 pieces of maritime art submitted for a juried exhibition organized by Toledo artist Michael Gibbons. The exhibition is titled “Maritime Heritage: Impressions in Art.”
Photographs from the Society’s collection illustrate early life on the area waterways. Some are larger-than-life, which might also be a way to describe the building housing the museum.
Part of the experience visiting the museum is the location and uniqueness of the building with its high ceilings and 50-some windows overlooking Newport’s Bayfront at Port Dock 5. “When people enter the building for the first time, they often gasp as they take in the beauty and scale of the building,” Wyatt said.
The center is also an event venue. “We are now scheduling charity events, weddings, etc. for the Great Room, which is adjacent to an open-air deck overlooking the Bayfront,” Wyatt said.
Other attractions include an AIS System antenna, which identifies and tracks marine traffic in real time and a Hands-On History area where children can handle objects and create their own exhibits.
Renovation of this building has been possible through grassroots support. Since 2004, more than $1 million has been raised, all from local donors. The upper and lower floors, which will house a multi-purpose theater, a conference center, and additional exhibits, will open as funds are raised.
Admission to the museum for non-members is $5 for adults; $3 for children 3 through 12 and free to children 2 and under. For a limited time, members will be free. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.