Alexandre Gilbert was born in LaRochelle, France on April 16, 1843. As a young man he served seven years in the French Army. He rose to the rank of sergeant during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871).
One of nine children, he emigrated from France to Montreal, Quebec after the war. He left Canada and moved to San Francisco, California in 1872. There he built the Gilbert House Hotel whch he operated for eight years.
n 1881 he moved north to Astoria, Oregon (18 miles up the road from the Gilbert Inn in Seaside). He operated a saloon and retail liquor business, which had “rooms for single women” on the second floor. Originally founded as a port for fur trappers by John Jacob Astor in 1810 (just four years after Lewis and Clark spent the winter in nearby Ft. Clatsop), Astoria enjoyed some wild times in the 19th century. The local newspaper reported a couple of shootings outside Gilbert’s saloon. There were regular reports of strange diappearances.
Rough and tumble sailors provided much of the Astoria excitement. Gilbert befriended many of the sea captains who called upon the port at the mouth of the Columbia River. There were rumors, indeed only mutterings, that Gilbert may have played some part in Astoria‘s Shanghaiing operations, which supplied unwilling sailors to more than a few ocean going skippers.
Gilbert sold the liquor business in 1898 and retired with his wife, the former Emma Longol, also a French ex-patriot, to real estate ventures in Seaside, Oregon. He lived in the summer house, the Gilbert House, which had begun as a beach cottage built in the 1880’s (today’s Gilbert Inn “1880’s Suite”).
Gilbert kept in touch with many of his captain friends over the years. Often he would entertain them in the house that is now the Gilbert Inn. For many years one of his prize collections contained pieces of steamship company China his seagoing friends gave him.*
In Seaside, Gilbert owned the six hundred lot Hermosa Park Development, and the land where the Seaside City Park and Sunset Hills are now located. He also owned the Gilbert Block at Broadway and Holladay. He built that after the 1912 Seaside fire. Most of the buildings Gilbert constructed in Clatsop County, Oregon, are still standing.
He was first to import live French escargot to Oregon. Some of the snails escaped before Alexandre could offer them at table to his guests. Their offspring may still be found wandering the moister parts of Seaside.
He made his own wine from imported French grapes and mineral water. Dick Rees, the owner and operator of the Gilbert Inn for twenty years until 2004, reported that several bottles of his homemade wine were still in the cellar of the Gilbert House, now the Gilbert Inn, in 1971.
The Gilbert House, now known as the Gilbert Inn
Alexandre Gilbert died at home in Seaside, Oregon on April 26, 1935. He is buried in the Gilbert tier at the Abbey View Mausoleum at the Ocean View Cemetery in Warrenton, Oregon.
The Gilbert Inn is in Seaside, Oregon. It was in the Gilbert family and used as their private beach home until the 1970’s. It has been operated as a bed and breakfast inn since the 1980’s under three owners.
A most recent owner purchased the Gilbert Inn in 2008. The owner’s first goal is to maintain the house and its traditions in ways that will promote your enjoyment, comfort, good memories
and romance (the people of the Gilbert Inn hope to create a setting to