Establishment of the Boat Building Center

The idea for a boat building school occurred during meetings held in 2008 to take public input on the development of a concept plan for the Hollering Place. Vicki Dugger, director of the Oregon Downtown Development Association, and her team were hired by the City of Coos Bay to facilitate several community meetings. During discussion of the area’s history, citizens expressed a strong interest in preserving the community’s history of wooden boat building. The boat building school was included as a cultural component of the Hollering Place Concept Plan which was adopted by the city in December 2008. A boat building summit was held on April 9, 2009 and a plan outlined for establishing the school.

The Urban Renewal Agency appointed the Coos Bay Boat Building Center Board August 4, 2009. Dick Wagner, Director for the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle WA, met with the board several times over a 12-month period giving instruction on the formation, funding, and operation of a wooden boat center. The board of directors worked many hours completing requirements for the application for non-profit status. The application was submitted and the center received its official non-profit status November 3, 2009. The city negotiated a lease of the facility known as the Hallmark Fisheries property with property owner Doug Devine. In lieu of lease payments, the city agreed to fund improvements to the building and dock to convert the facility for use as the boat building center. The city also provided staff support to the board and for the project.

It is through the generosity of the City of Coos Bay and Coos Bay Urban Renewal Agency and their commitment to preserving our area’s heritage that the center was developed and continues to operate today.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 6, 2009. Wielding shovels are Tom Greaves, president of the Empire Citizens Group, Dick Wagner, director of the Center for Wooden Boats, and Doug Devine, property owner. Approximately 50 people attended the event.

Area History

The center is located on the bay adjacent to the historic Hollering Place. Before the first Europeans sailed into the Coos Bay estuary, the Hollering Place was the center for transportation, commerce and without a doubt, communication. By establishing the village named Hanisitch (place of the Hanis) the area’s original inhabitants recognized the value of this location for anyone traveling along the coast. Southbound travelers would holler across to the village and someone would paddle over to provide passage.

The Hollering Place became the site of the first European settlement and Empire City was the first Coos County seat. Rich in natural resources the area prospered in the timber and fishing industries and the Coos Bay region developed as a major shipbuilding community.