Alexandre Gilbert Founder of the Gilbert District
Seaside’s unique Gilbert District along Broadway was created by a very unique man, Frenchman Alexandre Gilbert, Sr., who was Mayor of Seaside from 1912-16, and helped rebuild downtown after the devastating fire of 1912.
Gilbert was born in Lucon and became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in August of 1877, relocating from San Francisco to Astoria in 1881 where he ran a wholesale and retail liquor business. In 1889, Gilbert served as commissioner for the State of Oregon at the Paris Exhibition and was in charge of the Oregon exhibits.
According to the Clatsop County Historical Society, Gilbert moved to Seaside in the early 1890s and built a large, Queen-Anne style house that sits at 341 Beach Dr. During the next few years he would continue buying property and developing the town.
“The work he did to develop property in Seaside was much admired, considered a benefit to all, a way of showing confidence in the future of the town,” wrote Lisa Penner (Cumtux, Vol. 22, No. 3).
According to records at the Seaside Museum and Historical Society, Gilbert bought up property downtown after the fire and loaned money to several businessmen to rebuild or repair as necessary. The Gilbert Insurance Company carried much of the coverage on the destroyed buildings, and as mayor and a businessman, Gilbert saw that the town recovered and people continued to prosper.
In the June 11, 1914, Seaside Signal reported “Building operations on the new $60,000 Gilbert building at the corner of 7th Street and Broadway, are being pushed to the highest capacity and this beautiful structure will be completed and ready for occupancy by the middle of July.”
Gilbert also donated to the city a strip of land along the beach that would later be used for Seaside’s Promenade, according the Gilbert’s great-granddaughter, Virginia McConkey-Hendrickson.
“He envisioned families strolling along the boardwalk with their children, and then sitting down on the grass to enjoy a picnic, much as he remembered them doing in France,” McConkey-Hendrickson said.
Some mystique does follow Gilbert, as great-granddaughter Kathleen McConkey-Kulland describes in Cumtux: “ A story that I cannot verify is that he owned a fancy bar and brothel in Astoria on Astor Street (the local Red Light district), which included a trapdoor in the floor through which drunken men were dropped into waiting boats, and when they sobered up, they were aboard a ship at sea and were part of the ship’s crew.”
Gilbert owned 600 lots called “Hermosa Park Development” which stretched from Avenue A to the Lewis and Clark Salt Cairn, and from the river to the waterfront. He also owned much of the land that is now Sunset Hills. When Gilbert died on April 26, 1935, Seaside businesses closed from 9 to 10 a.m. during funeral services to honor him. He is buried in the Gilbert tier at the Abbey View Mausoleum at the Ocean View Cemetery in Warrenton.
OLD TIME SEASIDER IS DEAD
Alexander Gilbert, 90, resident of Clatsop county for more than 60 years and a veteran of the Franco-Prusian (sic) war, passed away at his home in Seaside early Friday after a short illness. He was active in the real estate business almost to the time of his death and was well known in both Astoria and Seaside.
He was born in La Rochelle, France, April 16, 1845, and received his education there. He entered military service and served as a first lieutenant in the Franco-Prussian war. After the war ended he moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where he resided for 6 months before going to San Francisco where he was proprietor of the Gilbert House.
Here for 33 Years
After a year’s residence in San Francisco, he came to Astoria and resided here for about 33 years. He was in the real estate business here and maintained his interest in that business when he moved to Seaside about 29 years ago.
Survivors include two daughters, Mrs. Fred Watson, Astoria, and Mrs. Victor R. Finch, Portland: a son, Alexander Gilbert, Seaside; and four grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Rites Are Monday
Funeral services will be held at the Gilbert home at 2605 First Street South in Seaside at 9 a.m. Monday with Father Charles Raymond officiating. Internment will be in the Oceanview cemetery mausoleum under direction of E.M. Hughes mortuary.
(printed in the Daily Astorian)
|Birth:||Apr. 16, 1846
Departement de la Charente-Maritime
|Death:||Apr. 26, 1935
GELBERT (sic) – Alexandre, aged 90, died Friday morning, April 26, at his home in Seaside. Survived by two daughters, Mrs. Fred W. Watson, Astoria, and Mrs. Victor R. Finch, Portland, Or. One son, Alexander Gilbert Jr., Seaside: four grandchildren, eight great-granchildren. Funeral services will be held Monday, April 29, at 9 A.M. at home in Seaside, with Father Charles Raymond officiating. Vault entombment at Oceanview Abbey, under direction of E. B. Hughes Mortuary, Astoria, Or.(printed in the 27 Apr 1935 Oregonian)