The iconic Heceta Head Lighthouse is open again after two years of restoration. The official unveiling happened Saturday, June 8, when the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) welcomed a group of nearly 100 supporters to Heceta Head State Scenic Viewpoint to celebrate the reopening. Many of those in attendance were involved in the restoration work. The lighthouse had been closed since August of 2011.
The event kicked off with remarks by University of Oregon Professor of Architecture Emeritus Donald Peting, West Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich, and State Senator Arnie Roblan. The speeches were followed by the uncovering of the lighthouse’s original first-order Fresnel lens and the relighting of the 1,000-watt quartz bulb with its signature of one white flash every 10 seconds. Attendees then enjoyed tours of the tower and refreshments on the lawn of the Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast, run by a concessionaire of the U.S. Forest Service. The event was emceed by Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commissioner Cal Mukumoto from North Bend.
The lighthouse tower was originally constructed in 1893 and its five-wick kerosene lantern first lit in 1894. In 2001, ten years after the property was fully transferred to OPRD by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department initiated a top-to-bottom restoration effort. The work was needed to address deterioration of the landmark caused by more than a century of extreme weather and disrepair.
Under the supervision of OPRD preservation architect Sue Licht, a team of more than 100 subcontractors and craftspeople, the majority of whom were from Oregon, removed cement stucco that had sealed in moisture so that the lighthouse could air out in the damp coastal environment. They also replaced and restored the tower’s historic metalwork and masonry, installed new windows, and repaired the lens rotating mechanism. The interior and exterior of the lighthouse were repainted and the original wood floor of the workroom was uncovered and reconditioned. The lighthouse has been returned as much as possible to the way it would have looked in 1894.
The nearly $1.6-million project was financed through a combination of federal, state, and private dollars—primarily by a $1.27-million transportation enhancement grant from the Federal Highway Administration, with the remaining funds coming from OPRD, the Oregon State Parks Foundation, and other private donations. Other park improvements to the trails and parking areas were completed in the last two years thanks to help from the U.S. Forest Service.
The restoration project was the winner of a 2013 Oregon Heritage Excellence Award from the Oregon Heritage Commission, which declared it “an exceptional example of an extensive, successful restoration project of a historically significant structure.” A local artist, Marcy Tippmann, created a commemorative painting of the lighthouse for the reopening; proceeds from sales of poster prints will go towards a future project to restore two oil houses adjacent to the lighthouse.
Heceta Head is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the U.S. and has the brightest light on the Oregon coast. It also has the only active British-made lens of its size in the country. The Heceta Head Lighthouse and assistant light keeper’s house (now the Heceta Head Bed and Breakfast) were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Submitted by: Chris Havel (Oregon State Parks)