Story by Jennifer Margulis // Photos by Adam Bacher
Blowing your own glass, or watching the experts, like glassblower Andrew Kogel, is one of Lincoln City's largest tourist draws along with the Chinook Winds Casino Resort on the north side of town and the Tanger Outlet Center.
No one in Lincoln City drives an electric car. But if you walk through the Taft District on the south side of town you will pass four electric charging stations, which the city welcomes visitors to use for free. The installation of these stations was a proactive move. Even before Nissan released the Leaf, Lincoln City decided to become the first place on the Oregon Coast where an electric vehicle could be charged.
Don’t get the wrong impression. Lincoln City is not known for being “green.” Like much of the Oregon Coast, it’s a mostly working-class community of people who eke out a livelihood from the town’s main industry: tourism. But unlike other coastal towns, Lincoln City has steadily recovered from the economic downturn.
Risk taking, combined with a robust collaboration between city officials and business owners, and an understanding that sustainable economic viability is something that happens slowly have been three key factors that have helped Lincoln City become a vibrant community that attracts tourists even in the shoulder season.
Before 1965 Lincoln City didn’t exist. Instead, there were six separate areas strung along the winding Highway 101: Cutler City, Delake, Nelscott, Oceanlake, Wecoma Beach and Taft. Residents joke that their city is a boa constrictor that swallowed six chickens. Others prefer to compare it to a string of pearls with six gems. But even in the 1920s, before these towns were known as “Lincoln City,” the economy here has depended mostly, if not solely, on tourism.
Still, Lincoln City has little of the carnival aspect of Seaside and Newport: You won’t find bumper cars, wax museums or arcades near the beach. Residents remain surprised that Delake Bowl, which opened on May 31, 1938, still stands. Instead, Lincoln City is an eclectic place with Highway 101 as its Main Street where you’re as likely to meet a tattooed dad in the elevator wearing shorts in January as a well-heeled government administrator in a power suit. Even the population is hard to pinpoint. Although the government census estimates that the city’s inhabitants numbered 7,849 in 2005, city manager David Hawker explains that on any given day some 15,000 people are using the city’s services, such as water. One-third of the homes in Lincoln City are second homes, frequented by people who live elsewhere but visit on the weekends and during summer.