[A brief history of Siltcoos Station as featured in the July 9, 2023 edition of the Siuslaw News, written by Dannon Farrald]
Florence is surrounded by beautiful lakes steeped in rich history. One of those lakes, Siltcoos, is located just south of the HWY 101 bridge and is also the largest lake on the Oregon Coast. Although long gone, the first homesteaders braved cold, wet winters, long trails, and remote isolation - yet their legacies remain.
Danish immigrant Neil Christensen homesteaded the east side of the lake in 1892. After the railroad arrived in 1914, he and his family carved a bustling community out of the forest on the lakeside. He and his neighbors and fellow homesteaders, Peter Earhart and Simon Kerichle, planted apple and fig orchards all around the lake, many of which still remain.
In response to the railroad and its increasing demands, the Christensens turned the train station into a community hub that included a store, dance hall, baitshop, gas station, post office, and cabins to house both railroad employees and guests. This station became known as Christensen’s Resort, which eventually became known as “Siltcoos Station”.
Soon after the train station was built, a marina was developed with a pier that enabled goods to be offloaded from the train onto barges and then transported to all parts of the lake. Christensen’s sons saw a niche market and created a boat taxi and delivery service that would connect the entire lake’s burgeoning community to each other. As the population grew, so did Siltcoos Station.
The festivities at Siltcoos Station were not limited to just a dance hall. During prohibition, the dance hall acted as a speakeasy for guests coming from Eugene who would enjoy a bit of homemade (illegal) spirits. Below the dance hall (which stands on 14 foot stilts above the water) was a floating brothel. This bordello would welcome patrons from the Booth logging community and those who rode the passenger train.
Quick to accommodate a need, the Christensen boys ferried the women around the lake back and forth who were in search of their counterparts. All the while, they also ferried the men back and forth who were secretly patronizing the brothel, sometimes narrowly missing their wives and girlfriends.
During summer months, a number of Siltcoos lake’s resorts combined their efforts to host thousands of guests each weekend. Siltcoos Station was always a draw for its ease of access via the train.
Over the years, the Christensen family held onto the land and resort until 1972. However, the hardship of building and property maintenance on an aging family and the youth of the lake community that moved inland demanded changes. Siltcoos Station was donated to Lane Community College and used as a guest house for the college. Art classes, writing seminars, and a myriad of events were hosted over the following 30 years.
By the 2000’s, interest in using the property dwindled and maintenance of a one hundred year old property grew increasingly difficult, resulting in the cabins becoming nearly condemned. The community rallied, working hard to save the cabins. But by 2016, the amount of work was insurmountable for the community college and the cabins were sold back into private hands.
Today, the cabins and old dance hall have been thoroughly renovated, modernized, and restored. Over all those years of history, the dance hall, pier, baitshop, gas station, cabins, apple orchards, and railroad still remain.