Coos History Museum

2016 Oregon Brownfields Outstanding Project

City of Coos Bay
Martha Butler
Ford Family Foundation
Collins Foundation
Coquille Tribe & Tribal Community Fund
Meyer Memoria Trust
Murdock Charitale Trust
Crow/Clay Architects
Miller Hull Architects
Scott Partney Construction
Community Campaign Donors
    (more than 430, almost all local, private)
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Business Oregon

The Coos County Historical Society, founded in 1891, is the second-oldest historical society in the state of Oregon. From 1958 until 2014, the Society operated its Coos County Historical and Maritime Museum on land donated to it by the city of North Bend. By the late 1990's, the museum facility in North Bend was obsolete, but the Society lacked the resources to improve or replace the existing facility or to build elsewhere. In late 2000, the Society received a private, unsolicited donation of Tootsie Roll stock, valued at more than $800,000, which came with one stipulation—that the funds be used for construction of a new museum located along Highway 101.

In early 2004, the city of Coos Bay offered the Society the former Central Dock property, which the city had purchased from Coos County. The county had earlier obtained the property through tax foreclosure proceedings. Located along Highway 101, the Central Dock site was situated directly on the waterfront serving as a gateway to the city's historic waterfront and presenting the Museum with extraordinary opportunities for waterfront interpretation, encouraging community gathering, pedestrian activity and waterfront redevelopment.

Redevelopment of the site was not without its challenges. The property was originally tidal wetlands and had been filled sometime prior to 1900. A 60' wide dilapidated wooden dock structure covered the inter-tidal rip-rap edge of the property; a concrete slab and retaining wall extended along most of the perimeter of the site; and a double wide rail spur bordered the western boundary of the property. Moreover, a long history of industrial/commercial uses had left a legacy of metal and petroleum contamination that needed to be addressed.

The Society faced many hurdles before realizing its dream. Before moving forward with construction it opted to rebuild staff capacity and programs, hire a new Executive Director and Collections Manager, launch a new Education program and then, in 2005, begin a capital campaign to raise money. Additionally, the Society worked with ODEQ, first to negotiate a Prospective Purchaser Agreement to limit its liability and then to determine cleanup options. Through removal of contaminated materials during construction, and utilizing design and institutional controls, the Museum's footprint and parking lot caps the entire upland portion of the property. In May 2014, eighteen months after breaking ground, the Museum opened its doors to the public.

Coos Museum