History

History

All About History and Tours of the Heceta Head Lightstation

Heceta Lightstation Interpretive Center LogoOur Story

Learn how the Heceta Head Lightstation came to be.

Read More

Keeper's House Interpretive Center

Come take a tour and see what it was like to live at the Keeper's Residence

Read More

Volunteer Opportunities

Tell Our Story to the World - and earn a special gift!

Read More

Oregon Coast Lighthouses

Learn about the Lighthouses of Oregon and more

Read More


Our Story

Our Story

For more than a century Heceta Head Lighthouse has helped seagoers navigate the Pacific Ocean’s treacherous currents. The cape owes its name to Don Bruno de Heceta, who in 1775 embarked on a secret voyage for the Queen of Spain to sail up the West Coast. Due to the onslaught of scurvy, Heceta and his crew turned back just before the Columbia River, but not before he noted the shallow waters and rocky headland that now bear his name.

Kids at playA century later, mariners frequenting the dark waters between Coos Bay and Newport asked for a lighthouse to guide their journeys up and down the coast. Heceta Head proved an ideal location, but the construction project in this isolated place was no small feat. In 1892, an order was placed with the Chance Brothers in England for a powerful First Order Fresnel Lens to be shipped to Heceta Head, where construction of two Queen Anne-style Lightkeepers’ houses and Lighthouse tower had already begun. Building materials were transported over a single lane wagon road or placed on rafts and pushed overboard at Cape Cove to float ashore with the incoming tide.

On March 30, 1894, the lighthouse cast its first beam. The first eight years were trying times for the three Lightkeepers and their families who lived in the little community of Heceta Head. Many Lightkeepers were unable to handle the sparse and isolated conditions and moved on. Head Keeper Olaf Hansen worked for over fifteen years to make the Lightstation a sustainable community. Olaf started the vegetable gardens, a schoolhouse and the Heceta Head Post Office.

Much changed in the 1930s, when Oregon finished construction of U.S. Highway 101 and the Lightstation received electricty. Motorist frequently traveled up and down the Oregon Coast, which ended the Lightkeepers’ years of isolation. Electricity allowed for a partially automated lighthouse, ending the duty of one Lightkeeper.

The 1930s ended with the retirement of the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Its successor, the U.S. Coast Guard, retired the Head Keeper’s dwelling and sold the house for $10. The salvaged lumber returned to Mapleton to build what’s now known as the Alpha Bit Store and Cafe.

During World War II, the Coast Guard Beach Patrol manned Heceta Head with 75 men. They guarded the beaches between Florence and Yachats with attack dogs and lived in wooden bunkers where the Head Keeper’s house once stood. From 1925 to 1950 Cap and Ma Herman witnessed all of these drastic changes. Cap opted not to take a Coast Guard rank and was the only civilian allowed on the property during the war.

After WWII, the Coast Guard continued to man the Lightstation as an aide to navigation. Two men and their families remained at Heceta. In 1963, Head Lightkeeper Oswald Allick witnessed the end of the era of Lightkeepers when the Lighthouse was automated and turned over to computers. The Keeper’s House was then turned over to the U.S. Forest Service.

From 1970 to 1995, the U.S. Forest Service leased the Keepers House to Lane Community College for use as a satellite campus. The wall dividing the two dining rooms was removed to create a classroom space. Students were able to enjoy the Oregon Coast while taking classes, retiring afterwards to the second floor, which was furnished with bunk beds.

When the Keepers House was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1973, the U.S. Forest Service looked for alternative uses that would allow the Keepers House to be more accessible to the public and to share the rich history. It was decided that a Bed & Breakfast would make this feasible.

Heceta Head entered a new era in 1995, when Mike and Carol Korgan were chosen to be the first Innkeeper’s for the Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast. As volunteers, the Korgans helped start the careful restoration of the interior. Now retired, their daughter Michelle continues to restore the Keepers House and invite the public to enjoy this National Treasure.


Interpretive Center

Interpretive Center

Documenting the history of one of the Oregon Coast's most prominent landmarks

The Heceta Lightstation Interpretive Center

The Keeper’s House offers guided tours from knowledgeable docents during the summer months.  The Interpretive Center is located on the first floor of the Keeper’s House. Tours are given Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, everyday from 11 to 3 p.m. except Wednesdays and during special events. Throughout the year personal tours may be arranged by appointment for individuals, educational groups, historic societies and civic organizations. Tours will not be given on days we have special events such as weddings. To confirm tour dates or arrange a tour beyond the regular tour season please call 1-866-547-3696.  There is no charge for tours, but donations are used to support the interpretive center and restoration of the Lightkeeper's House. Public parking is located at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint. A $5 fee per vehicle is required for the day use area.

The Lighthouse

Tours are given year round 11-3, staffing and weather permitting.  The lighthouse observation area is open year round during park hours. To arrange a tour beyond the regular tour schedule, please call 1-541-547-3416. For more information, visit Oregon State Parks.

The Gift Shop

The Heceta Head Lighthouse Gift Shop is located in the old generator room between the Lighthouse and Keeper’s House. The Heceta Head Lighthouse Gift Shop features signature gifts, local art, models, books, clothing and nautical faire. A portion of the proceeds from the Heceta Head Lighthouse Gift Shop directly support the maintenance of the Keeper’s House.

The Heceta Head Lighthouse Gift Shop is open daily 11- 5  Memorial  weekend through June, and 10 - 6  Fourth of July weekend through September, 11-5 during weekends in May and October, 4-7 during Christmas open houses and the Lightstation Birthday Party, 11-5 during Spring Break, select holiday weekends, and by appointment for tour groups.


Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Opportunities

Do you want to be a part of the dedicated group of people who care for the Lightkeeper's House? There are several ways to help preserve this National Treasure. Tour guides, craftsmen, researchers and many other helpful hands make our Lightstation shine! Our volunteers feel enriched by their hard work and special connection to Heceta. 

Tour Guides

The Keeper’s house and the Lighthouse are always in need of tour guides to greet visitors and share our rich history! Over 24,000 people from across the globe visit the Lightstation every year. The free public tours are filled with people who are thrilled to learn about the Lightstation and the Oregon Coast. Tours are held at the Keeper’s house Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day, Thursday through Tuesday 11-3 p.m.  Tours are also available during special events and by appointment throughout the year. If you are interested in giving tours at the Keeper’s house please contact 877-547-3696 or misty@hecetalighthouse.com. For information on giving tours at the Lighthouse contact Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department 1-800-551-6949 or visit oregonstateparks.org

Restoration

The 124 year old Keeper’s House sits high above the Pacific Ocean. Salt air, high winds and moisture are a just a few of the challenges we encounter on the exterior alone!!! Year round projects are in the works and we need individuals of all levels of expertise to volunteer. Tell us about your strengths, we’ll find the job! Contact us at 866-547-3696 or misty@hecetalighthouse.com.

Revenue for restoration and maintenance of the Keeper’s house and Interpretive Center are generated entirely by the proceeds from the Bed and Breakfast, gift shop purchases, and donations.

Historic Pictures and Artifacts

Give a piece of history to the Lightstation! We are always searching for historic images of the Lightstation. We have been blessed by many descendants of Heceta Lighthouse Keepers and area residents who have donated photos for our archives. We can always use more! We also collect any U.S. Lighthouse Service items, Victorian or period pieces that can be displayed in our Interpretive Center. Let us know if you are willing to give or sell any items that would help share the history of this area. 

Your Stories

We also want to hear your story.  Are you related to a Lightkeeper?  Did you go to college here?  How is your personal history connected to the Heceta Head Lightstation?  Please email your story and contact information to misty@hecetalighthouse.com.


Oregon Coast Lighthouses

Heceta Head Keeper’s house is operated under a concessionaire permit by WR Trillium Inc in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. Persons of any race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion or with any handicapping condition are welcome to enjoy all facilities, programs and services of the USDA. Discrimination in any form is strictly against any policy and should be reported to the Secretary of Agriculture, Washington DC, 20250, 1-800-245-6340.