LANGLOIS - When Dennis Bowman, owner of the former Langlois Cheese Factory, approached a local sign maker, Rod Smith, owner of All Around Signs in North Bend, about restoring the decades-old sign in front of the building, he learned some history.
The two men that mentored Smith in the sign business were still living in the North Bend area, Bowman discovered. The two, Bill Blumberg and Leonard Deel, both worked on the original sign in the late 1950s when they were starting their careers in sign making. Bowman was able to contact Blumberg, and along with his neighbor and Smith, they put their heads together and recreated the sign with an "almost" replica, using the same shape and some of the metal from the original sign. Although the new sign doesn't have neon like the original, it will be lighted with LED lights.
The old sign was taken down in early December and was replaced with the new sign on March 26.
Blumberg came down to watch the installation.
"I have many people to thank for having bought sweatshirts and T-shirts, which are still available at events," Bowman said.
The town of Langlois was founded in 1881 and named for an early Oregon pioneer, William Langlois. A cheese factory was built in the town in 1925 and produced cheddar, and then bleu cheese. The cheese had a good reputation for its taste, but the factory burned to the ground on April 26, 1957, and was never rebuilt. Once known as Dairyville, Langlois was once the most populated town in Curry County until it was surpassed by Brookings.
Bowman said he has learned a lot about the building since he's owned it. People have found memorabilia of the former cheese factory, along with photos and other mementos and have given them to Bowman. Many of those items are on display at the building.
Bowman feels he's made a small contribution to preserve a piece of history for the Langlois area. That collective history is what gives the venue such a positive vibe, he said.
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"One person brought me a color photograph of right after the cheese factory burned," Bowman said. "I also have a 1951 Farmers Almanac from Dick's Feed and Seed and personal financial papers from the owners. These people let me into their private stashes in their barns and attics to let me go through things. We're all leaving something behind and I feel like that sets the tone for the place."
In the 1950s, the Langlois Cheese Factory was making 500,000 pounds of cheese and bringing in $330,000 to $340,000 per year, the financial papers indicated.
What's left of the former Langlois Cheese Factory is now an historic barn that was part of the facility that didn't burn in 1957. It was where the foil, wrappers and boxes were stored and also had a refrigeration unit in the center of the building, underneath the floor. One part of the building was for retail cheese sales. For many years after the fire, that surviving building was used as a feed and seed store. The pump house and well house are also still standing.
The property was purchased by Bowman in 2006, and after renovating it, he now rents it out as a venue for parties, concerts, weddings and other events. It is often used by local artists and bands as well as musicians on tour who stop by Langlois on their way up and down the coast.
An official "sign lighting" potluck barbecue will be held from 1-3 p.m. Sunday, March 31, at the former Langlois Cheese Factory, 94179 Allen Boice Drive. Utensils, meat, juice and water will be provided. The South Coast Folk Society will hold a workshop and dance from 3-4:30 p.m. and a dance party with live band from 5-8 p.m. (see related article).
For more information on renting the venue, call Bowman at 541-290-5530 or visit the Langlois Cheese Factory Facebook page or the website at https://www.langloischeesefactory.com/. For more fun facts and information about events going on in Langlois, visit the World Famous Langlois website at https://www.worldfamouslanglois.com/.