While celebrating our anniversary this week with a trip along the southern Oregon coast, my husband and I visited one of our favorite stops—Shore Acres State Park, south of Coos Bay. Whether you are an avid gardener seeking floral beauty, a writer seeking setting for a book, or a tourist out for a great hike, this park has it all.
The park is a formal English garden, complete with a caretaker’s cottage, and was once part of the estate of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis J. Simpson. Perched on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean, the estate originally featured a summer home, a lavishly furnished three-story mansion surrounded by five acres of formal gardens.
One end invites the visitor to view a hundred-foot Japanese style lily pond bordered by an oval pathway, complete with miniature pagodas and arched footbridges. Many of the original plants were shipped in from around the world. A fire destroyed the mansion in 1921 and Simpson tried to rebuild—a hotel on an even grander scale—but the economics of the times and huge losses in the stock market crash of 1929 saw the project fall into disrepair. The State of Oregon bought the grounds for a park in 1942, razing what was left of the structure.
Author Jane Kirkpatrick used the estate as the setting for her historical novel, A Gathering of Finches (1997). As I walked the paths weaving their way among the flowers and hedges, I could remember bits of Kirkpatrick’s book and the fates of the characters so caught up in their quest for wealth and prestige, yet not finding satisfaction for their thirsty souls.
The garden is a tribute to Simpson’s success, leaving a living legacy for those of us who have followed him. However, inside the observation building, built on the site where the house once stood overlooking the Pacific, are pictures of all Simpson lost in the Fourth of July fire, 192l, reminding the viewer how fleeting wealth can be.
Seeing the pictures of what once existed at Shore Acres, I was reminded of the verses in Matthew 6:19,20a (NKJV):
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . (21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”