Colony at the Coast

By Aimée Sisco
Thandi Rosenbaum

Photo by Aimée Sisco

Located on the outskirts of a well-loved if careworn beach community in Seaview, Washington, the Sou’wester might be easy to miss or to misunderstand. The collection of vintage travel trailers, cabins, and campsites—providing overnight or even monthly accommodations—seems to meander through the shore pine and salal toward the sea. A handful of gardens (at least one is secret), an occasional fire pit, an area for RV hookup, and a series of open-air buildings—a bike shed, an event space, a kitchen—serve to further confuse the perimeter, giving the place an air of artsy serendipity. Even the lodge, that magnificent red structure rising up somewhere near the center of the property, has either two main entrances or two side entrances, depending on your perspective.

The lodge was built as a vacation home in 1892 by U.S. senator and Oregon resident Henry Winslow Corbett. In the ’40s or ’50s the second-floor ballroom was converted to suites, which is about when the cabins were added. Thandi Rosenbaum ’00 bought the Sou’wester last spring. She and her team gave it a major overhaul, refinishing hardwood floors, fixing plumbing, painting walls, and getting rid of a half century of junk. Then they added back into the spaces the streamlined furniture and housewares for which the midcentury era is known. 

The art she selected—a mix of vintage finds and original works by local artists, not to mention other objects she’s collected, like a whale bone she’s put in one of the cabins or a found-object installation of tsunami debris she’s set up near the lodge—are key to Rosenbaum’s vision for the Sou’wester. Hoping to inspire and support creativity in all forms, the former anthropology major has established an artist’s residency program that gives discounted rates to artists who want to come to the coast to work for a week or longer. She’s also hosted a steady program of music shows, yoga retreats, and craft workshops since reopening last June. 

Next time you’re in Astoria, cross the mighty Columbia for a stop at the Sou’wester! After checking in, check out the “thrifty”—an honor-system thrift store in a trailer—where you can finally get that new-to-you pair of high-waisted pants. Then grab a locally grown organic cranberry juice from the general store on the wraparound porch (also honor system) and sign out a bicycle for a youthful ride through the grassy dunes and salty breezes of the glorious Long Beach Peninsula.