Editor’s note: This article pulls information from articles and archived material from the North Lincoln County Historical Museum.
LINCOLN CITY — Most might assume that Lincoln City was simply named after Lincoln County, but there’s more to the story of how the “Seven Miles of Smiles” got its name.
Before Lincoln City came to be, it was five different towns — Delake, Oceanlake, Taft, Cutler City and Nelscott. Each was a unique and independent community, but all shared the growing need for the shared infrastructure an incorporated city could provide as their populations began to grow exponentially.
A 1962 aerial survey showed that each town was growing too rapidly to keep up with its infrastructure needs, such as sewer, water, police and fire protection. A committee was formed to put together a city charter, but it wouldn’t be put to a vote until 1964.
Several votes were held throughout 1964, but each was voted down until various issues brought up by each community were resolved and compromises were reached. A vote finally passed by a narrow margin in December of that year, but immediately afterward, a new issue arose. What would this new city be called?
After struggling to finally get the consolidation passed, simply picking the name of one of the existing towns proved too controversial, with proposed names even similar to any of the previous towns being met with public rejection.
One notable suggestion was Miracle City, inspired by a campaign to call the area the 20 Miracle Miles, but it did not catch on.
Eventually, a creative solution was decided on, and a contest was held among local school children to find a name. The goal was to find a name that was interesting, but not outrageous. The children favored the name Surfland, but Lincoln City was also pulled from the suggestions.
A newspaper ballot was held, and Lincoln City led by a 2-1 margin, but the committee still considered Surfland due to its descriptive nature. An article from the News Guard newspaper in Lincoln City, preserved by the North Lincoln County Historical Museum, states that there were 300 advisory letters received criticizing both names, but offering few alternatives.
The committee tentatively selected Surfland as the name, but immediate public outcry denounced the name as too “honky-tonk.” So the committee relented, and Lincoln City was selected instead. Many criticized it for being unoriginal, but it proved to be the least controversial of the names suggested.
It’s likely the name Lincoln City was partially inspired by the county’s name, which itself was named after President Abraham Lincoln in 1896.
There have been occasional attempts to rename the city over the years, but none have succeeded — initially thanks in part to one of the city’s landmarks.
In 1965, a bronze statue of President Lincoln on horseback was donated to the new city by Anna Hyatt Huntington, a famous sculptor from New York, and later dedicated by Governor Mark Hatfield on Oct. 9, 1965.
An archived Capital Journal article valued the statue at $60,000 and states it was originally destined for Portland, Salem or Eugene to commemorate when the territory first became a state and the governorship was offered to Abraham Lincoln, who allegedly declined because of his wife’s reluctance to travel there.
After touring the “20 Miracle Miles” however, the New York architect in charge of finding a location for the statue decided it would be better suited to the open, rural area of Oceanlake, rather than confined to an urban city.
One stipulation noted was that if the city ever underwent a name change, the statue may be relocated to another part of the state.
An archived article from the Oregonian details the logistical difficulties of transporting the 8,500-pound statue from New York to the Oregon coast. It was first taken from New York to New Jersey by barge, then to Chicago by train. Because it was too large to fit under overpasses and through tunnels, it was then routed to Canada and then Montana and finally to Salem. From there, a specially designed flatbed truck was escorted by a crew of workers who would move power and telephone lines out of the way until it reached its final destination.
The statue was not unscathed by the journey however. A train car collision in Montana broke off the front two hooves, the nose and a reign from the statue, but the damage was repaired by a sculptor from Vancouver, Washington.
It stands in the center of the city to this day, across the street from Kirtsis Park.