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.
A 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 and partner Steven continue to restore the Keepets House and invite the public to enjoy this National Treasure.
The Interpretive Center
The Keeper’s House 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. Public parking is located at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint. A $5 fee per vehicle is required for the day use area.
Tours are given daily, in the summer from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and in the winter 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tour times are subject to change due to staffing and inclement weather. The lighthouse observation area is open year round during park hours. To arrange a tour beyond the regular tour season please call 1-800-551-6949. 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 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 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 October, 4-7 during Christmas open house, 11-3 during Spring Break, select holiday weekends, and by appointment for tour groups.
Do you want to be a part of the dedicated group of people who care for the Lightstation? 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.
The Keeper’s house and the Lighthouse are always in need of tour guides to greet vistors 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. We also have tours during special events and by appointment throughout the year. If you are interested in giving tours at the Keeper’s house please contact us. For information on giving tours at the Lighthouse contact Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department 1-800-551-6949 or visit oregonstateparks.org.
The 123 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
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.