Buying a Piece of Americana

If you thought Half.com’s marketing stunt
to rename the town of Halfway, Oregon to the more cyber-hip Half.com was a
jaw-dropper, then get a load of this possibility. Five hours north of San
Francisco, there’s a tiny little town named Samoa. With just 300 residents
living in 98 quaint, pastel homes built nearly a century ago, the town of
Samoa has been put on the auction block. With a modest minimum bid price of
$1.75 million, a handful of would-be buyers are likely to be enterprising
dot-coms.


In this tiny coastal Northern Californian town, life moves along at a
leisurely pace. Built back in 1892 as a town to house nearby lumber workers
and their families, many of Samoa’s residents still boast ties to its
timber history. The small town is a beloved haven for families, attracting
newcomers who want to bring up their children in a safe and idyllic
environment. Its gas station, general store, sawmill, shipyard, and butcher
shop shuttered their doors long ago, leaving this tiny hamlet with only the
Samoa Cookhouse home-style diner, an elementary school, post office, and a
restored bed-and-breakfast inn.


The 60 acre parcel is a steal at $1.75 million, and prospectors have
arrived in droves. Over 50 interested parties have visited the town in the
two months since its current owner, a subsidiary of Seattle-based Simpson
Timber Co., put the town on the auction block. But, the national attention
hasn’t brought a smile to its 300 residents.


With rents on the charming Victorian-style homes no higher than $600 a
month, many Samoans are worried that the impending change of ownership will
completely uproot the tight-knit community. So content with the status quo,
Samoa’s residents still must stoke a fire every morning to warm the houses
from the chilly North Pacific coastal winds. With no electric or
gas-powered heat, the town only recently built a new substation to route
its electricity directly from PG&E, replacing the convoluted set-up that
previously linked homes’ electricity with the pulp mill, causing black-outs
whenever a hiccup occurred at the mill. And so, it comes as no surprise
that Samoan citizens are apprehensive about a potential buyout from a
dot-com looking to cheaply put itself on the map so to speak.


Compared to Samoa’s old-fashioned, easygoing lifestyle, the Internet’s
frenetic pace is like an unwelcome houseguest. But, there are a bevy of
newly minted dot-com millionaires who might like nothing better than to
escape the rat race of Silicon Valley. If a dot-com firm wins the
sealed-bid auction, residents can only keep their fingers crossed that
it’ll be for a personal pet project, to help the community grow and thrive
in a non-obtrusive manner. And what better way than to buy the charming
little town of Samoa and become a member of the quaint community?


This coastal hamlet deserves to remain a haven for its community of
families, who likely care little for the outside World Wide Web. And
sometimes that’s a good thing, because it’s always nice to see a thriving
community, unaffected by the changing times we live in. So, if you’re the
winning bid, please don’t saddle Samoa with an unnecessary makeover. It’s
already perfect just the way it is.


Any questions or comments, love letters or hate mail? As always, feel
free to forward them to [email protected].


Want my daily missives delivered with your morning toast and coffee? Sign
up for my DealTracker newsletter.

News Around the Web