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Road Trip: The Garden at Shore Acres State Park


Vintage postcard of the house at Shoreacres Estate, postmarked 1911.

This is not a simple story to accompany pictures of flowers in a garden, though if it had been spring or summer it might have been just that. But it was November and instead of that easy beauty, this story is of the deeper beauty of a garden saved against all the odds, when the easier path would have been to just let it go, along with the millionaire’s house, too expensive to maintain.

Born in Oakland, California in 1877, Louis Jerome Simpson was the son of wealthy shipping and timber businessman, Asa Meade Simpson. The younger Simpson had a rocky start to his adult life but came into his own when he married his wife, Cassandra, in 1899 and his father gave him a start in his business in North Bend, Oregon, just north of Coos Bay.


Louis financed business and social development in North Bend and in 1907 the couple moved into their large clifftop home, 14 miles to the southwest, Shoreacres. The home would eventually include a ballroom, an indoor swimming pool, the gardens and a farm. The 5 acres of gardens included plants and trees from all over the world, brought to the west coast on the family’s sailing ships. The Simpsons' estate stretched from Sunset Bay to Cape Arago, more than 2 miles of Oregon coastline.

Sadly, Cassandra Simpson died in 1921 and several months later the house burned. Louis remarried and the couple rebuilt an even larger home on the site, above, living in the gardener’s cottage until 1928. The 1929 crash and the depression took a toll on Simpson’s businesses and led to bankruptcy in 1940. In 1942 the property’s mortgage holder sold Shoreacres to the state of Oregon for park land and, having been left to deteriorate, the house was razed in 1948. Louis J. Simpson’s estate is now 3 state parks: Sunset Beach, Shore Acres and Cape Arago.

Restoration of Louis Simpson’s garden began in 1974 when Oregon State Parks hired landscape architect Joseph Paiva to prepare a plan. The restored garden was dedicated on September 18, 1975.

The entrance to the garden under the pergola, past the gift shop.

The Formal Garden






Above & below, the Garden House.


Outlaws blooming in November, Hydrangeas, Hebe, Roses.







Amanita Muscaria Mushrooms



The Japanese Garden







Entrance to Louis Simpson’s 5 acre garden is at its north end through a pillared gazebo. Straight ahead is a fountain, the point from which the paths of the formal garden radiate. To the left is the Garden House, originally the gardener’s cottage, the only building that remains from the Simpson era, and just south of it the pavilion in which events are held. Continuing straight ahead through the formal garden beds, in winter clearly showing their geometry, the path arrives at a view onto the 100-foot long Japanese Garden’s pond. To the west of the pond is a path leading to a dramatic view of the Pacific above Simpson Beach, a perfect spot to contemplate the history of a man and his garden, to be grateful that it’s still in the world.


Shore Acres State Park is located 13 miles southwest
of Coos Bay, Oregon on the Cape Arago Highway.

PortMoresby's 2021 Road Trip.

And more stories are here.


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