L is for...Lighthouses
It's a schizophrenic Saturday here in Oregon (what's new) and we're strolling in to the halfway point of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today's letter brings us to a feature that many states along the coast possess and something that I've always had a fascination with...
There are eleven total lighthouses along the Oregon Coast. Nine were built for maritime purposes, five are still in operation, and two were privately built. Of the eleven, nine of them are on the National Register of Historic Places. There are five lighthouses that offer tours to visitors and each has a unique history. Some even have sordid pasts and rumored ghosts that roam their buildings. As a heads up, I apologize for the length of this post.
From the north heading south along Highway 101, the lighthouses are as follows:
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is the furthest north and located near Seaside. It is deactivated and the only lighthouse built offshore on a basalt rock rising out of the Pacific Ocean. Built in 1881, it was the most expensive lighthouse on the West Coast. Nicknames "Terrible Tilly" because of the treacherous waters surrounding it, the lighthouse was closed in 1957 due to heavy erosion and harsh conditions. In 1980, the lighthouse was bought by a group from Nevada who turned it into the Eternity at Sea Columbarium where about 30 urns were interned. Their license was revoked by the Oregon Mortuary Board in 1999 and it has been closed to the public ever since. The only way to access the rock is by helicopter, but all access is strictly prohibited during the seabird nesting season.
Cape Meares Lighthouse is located close to Tillamook and it is also inactive, but it is open to the public. The lighthouse was built in 1890. It was shut down in 1963 and replaced by a new tower that was more cost effective. When the Coast Guard made plans to tear the building down, the public was outraged, so they turned it over to the state's park department. Sitting empty for nearly five years, it became a favorite for vandals. Some of the vandalism was so bad that the keeper's quarters had to be destroyed and the lenses from the light were stolen. The state decided to open the lighthouse to the public in 1980 and, after this, some of the lenses were recovered and restored. In 2010, vandals struck again. Many of the windows were shot out and several of the recovered lenses were destroyed. Costs to fix the vandalism was estimated to be close to $500,000. Two of the men responsible were subsequently arrested and charged.
Yaquina Head Lighthouses is located in Newport; it was originally named Cape Foulweather Lighthouse. It is the tallest of all the lighthouses along the coast and stands at 93 feet. Completed in 1873, the lighthouse is one of the five still operating in the state. It still uses its original lenses built in 1868 in Paris, which can be seen 19 miles out to sea. In 1980, Congress named the lighthouse and its land an Outstanding Natural Area and it was then opened to the public. Tours can be taken daily from noon to four in the afternoon. An interesting fact about the lighthouse is its use in the movie The Ring in 2002 and a few earlier films.
Yaquina Bay Light was built in 1871 in the bay of Newport, the most populous bay between Seattle and San Francisco at the time. It was only active for three years (until the Yaquina Head Lighthouse was built three miles north) and was decommissioned by 1874. It has become living quarters for the US Army, the US Coast Guard, and the Oregon State Highway Division headquarters. When it was scheduled for demolition in 1946, the Lincoln County Historical Society stepped in to save it but were unable to raise enough money. Rescheduled for demolition in 1951, L.E. Warford fought to have it recognized as a historical site and it became a museum for the next 18 years. In 1974, the property was given to the Parks Department and it was opened for public viewing. This lighthouse has a white light visible for six miles, is the only listed lighthouse in the state where the housing quarters are in the same building as the light, and it is reportedly haunted.
Heceta Head is located thirteen miles north of Florence and was built in 1894 and has a light that shines 21 miles out to sea making it the strongest light on the Oregon Coast. The lighthouse itself is maintained by the Parks Department, but the keeper's house is operated by the US Forest Service and used as a bed and breakfast. It is named after Spanish explorer Bruno de Heceta, an 18th century explorer of the Pacific Northwest. The location was also a traditional spot for Native Americans to fish and hunt. Upon purchasing the land, the US Government began building the lighthouse, having to ship supplies in when the tide and weather allowed or using wagons from Florence and taking nearly five hours to travel 13 miles. In 1963, the light was automated and the lighthouse keepers were no longer needed and the building was leased to Lane Community College in 1970. Supposedly the most haunted of all of Oregon's lighthouses, Heceta Head is home to a ghost named Rue who is often seen in the attic windows. Strange sounds can be heard and objects are often moved. It is also the most photographed lighthouse along the coast.
The Umpqua River Light was built in 1855 and lit in 1857. It is located on Winchester Bay at the mouth of the Umpqua River. The original light was vulnerable to seasonal flooding, which led to erosion of the foundation, and in 1863 the building collapsed. The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1894 100 feet higher than the original so that the light could be seen out to sea rather than just at the mouth of the river and used the same plans as Heceta Head. In 1977, the lighthouse was placed on the National Historic Registry and soon after became open to the public.
Located in Charleston, Oregon, Cape Arago Lighthouse was built in 1909 after sailors complained about the inadequate light that previously occupied the location. This structure was again rebuilt in 1934 due to heavy erosion. Utilizing the light from the second lighthouse, the third used concrete instead of wood to better withstand the harsh weather conditions. By 1966 the light was automated and a keeper was no longer needed. It was completely decommissioned in 2006 and only the light tower remains standing; all other buildings have been destroyed. It is not open to the public and the area is completely fenced off.
The Coquille River Light, formerly known as the Bandon Lighthouse, was built in 1896 in the town of Bandon as a means to guide mariners past the ever-shifting sandbars. Outfitted with a siren that could be heard out to sea and liked by the mariners, the residents of Bandon did not like the siren. It was soon removed and replaced with a stronger light. In 1936, Bandon was destroyed by a wildfire and the town became completely bankrupt forcing the closure of the Coquille Lighthouse and replacing it with an automated light on the south jetty. Over the next 37 years, the lighthouse was neglected and subjected to vandalism. In 1976, construction was implemented to restore the property, but the outbuildings were already too far gone so they were destroyed. The light tower is still under construction.
Cape Blanco Lighthouse, the last of the publicly built lighthouses, is located in Cape Blanco, Oregon and was built in 1870. The area was deemed dangerous for mariners because of the many islands and reefs that dotted the area, so a lighthouse was commissioned. The location was also difficult for the keepers, having to endure harsh winds in the spring and summer, severe storms in the winter and deal with constant repairs and painting year-round.
There are a couple privately built and owned lighthouses along the coast, but this post is entirely too long to include them. If you're interested, head over here.
Happy Saturday, fellow A-Zers. Have a great weekend!