Famous lighthouse on Oregon coast now closed for renovations

Heceta Head Lighthouse is now dark, but its fame as a top Oregon coast destination still has plenty of tourists stopping by for the spectacular views.

It’s been called both the most famous and most photographed lighthouse in the world, and yet even with scaffolding now surrounding Heceta Head Lighthouse, visitors such as Bev Stricklen says “it’s a wonder to behold. It’s still impressive to me,” added this Salt Lake City native during her first visit to the West Coast and this lighthouse near Florence, off of Highway 101. Stricklen and other visitors -- during a sunny March 7 day out on the coast -- said they just learned that Heceta Head Lighthouse will be shut down for as long as two years. Still, volunteers -- who guard the entrance to this landmark that was first illuminated in 1894 -- explain that "the views from this vantage point are never closed; it's a year round free attraction."

Lighthouse remolding underway

The light went out at the famed Heceta Head Lighthouse back on Jan. 10, but it wasn’t until late February, say volunteers, that it was “officially shut down” due to much needed preservation repairs to help save this “crumbling 1894 lighthouse.”

According to the Oregon State Park and Recreation Department -- that operates this “working” lighthouse that’s become one of the most photographed structures along the Oregon coast – the remolding is now underway and is expected to cost upwards of $1.3 million.

In turn, both tourist Bev Stricklen and Oregon State Park volunteers, think “spending a million or more to save this 118-year-old lighthouse is well worth it.”

“I remember seeing photos of it when I was a young girl, and my grandparents visited the coast. I thought to myself ‘I’m going to go to that lighthouse one day for sure,” explained Stricklen during a March 7 Huliq interview at the base of the lighthouse with this tourist looking up in wonder at this structure sitting at the very edge of a cliff overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean.

Lighthouse has deep meaning for locals

Heceta Head is “something we’re sure proud of. It’s our calling card when we send postcards to friends and neighbors. It’s where our children get married, where we celebrate the holidays and it’s where we sit beneath it on the beach during the summer months. It’s ours and we’re sure happy it’s been restored to its past glory,” said local Juan Morales who lives in nearby Yachats.

In turn, Morales notes how the first phase of the Heceta Head Lighthouse park remolding has recently been completed with new fencing and a repaved parking lot that sits below the lighthouse. Also, historic lighthouse keeper’s house will remain open to visitors during the two-year renovation project, state park volunteers.

At the same time, this 56-foot-tall lighthouse has long been “the” thing to photograph when visiting the central Oregon coast; with Florence to its south and Bray’s Point and Yachats just north of Heceta Head Lighthouse.

Lighthouse face-lift important to local tourism

"This project is a top-to-bottom restoration, inside and out," said Sue Licht, Oregon Parks and Recreation preservation architect during a recent interview for Portland’s Oregonian newspaper. "It will involve restoring all the metalwork, all the masonry, all the interior finishes, including the windows and doors. The windows are going to go back in, and then the workroom will be restored on the interior as well."

Currently, workers can be seen removing the lighthouse “stucco by hand,” that volunteers say will be re-coated with a more environmental friendly type of stucco that “keeps it sort of waterproof.”

In turn, the volunteer rolled his eyes when explaining how “one rusts here in Oregon. That’s the joke because we get so much rain.”

Lighthouse history retold

One of the great joys, say lighthouse park volunteers, is to share the “interesting history of Heceta Head with our visitors.”

For instance, an Oregon State Parks fact sheet notes that it was on March 30, 1894, some 118 years ago this month that Heceta Head – named for the explorer Don Bruno de Heceta, who in 1775 embarked on a secret voyage to the West Coast for the Queen of Spain – cast its first beams.

In turn, the lighthouse was credited with saving “many a sailor and ships at sea;” while Heceta Head also guarded the coast during World War II when the Coast Guard Beach patrol had 75 men assigned to this strategic location along the Oregon coast that still beckons visitors even while it’s under renovation.

For more information, check out the website at www.HecetaLighthouse.com.

Image source of volunteers sitting beneath the scaffolding that currently surrounds the famed Heceta Head Lighthouse off of Highway 101 near Florence, Oregon. Photo by Dave Masko