June 6, 2018

Meet Mary Nulty, our own History Detective

Posted by: Phi

Meet Mary Nulty, our own History Detective

Mary Nulty is about to go on a historic adventure. In June, she will be at the National Archives in Washington DC, in cooperation with the US Lighthouse Society, to study some very important Heceta Head documents.

"This will be the first time that a member of the Heceta Lighthouse Interpretive Center will have access to the actual log books of the lightkeepers of Heceta Head," said Mary. "as well as files of general correspondence from the period. We expect our research will answer a lot of questions. We will be photographing what we find and bringing it back for further study and to share with the world."

As a lead docent at Heceta Head, Mary has been dedicated to finding answers to the many questions about the lives and culture of the people that cared for our magnificent lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. Whether it is food, shoe repair, glass containers, or earth closets, Mary is determined to find the truth. In preparation for this year's season, Mary has reorganized and expanded our photo exhibit, telling a more complete story of the facility in pictures.

"Mary is breathing new life into our interpretive program.  Her passion for the history of Heceta is inspiring and I am constantly amazed with her organization and attention to the little details that make our history so unique," said Michelle Korgan, owner of the Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast and co-sponsor of the Keeper's House Interpretive Center along with the US Forestry Service. "We are so happy to help make this journey of discovery possible."

Mary and Frank Nulty - 1994Mary and her husband Frank grew up in Oklahoma far away from the Oregon coast. They lived throughout the south moving with the Air Force and then oil companies. Big changes happened when they left Dallas, Texas in 1992. They drove away in a 34’ Airstream trailer, with the goal of exploring the Pacific Northwest and volunteering for Oregon and Washington State Parks for seven years allowed them to explore.

In 1994 Heceta Lighthouse was turned over to Oregon State Parks and the two of them gave tours all by themselves to hundreds of park visitors. The next year Mary was hired to be seasonal park naturalist at Honeyman State Park just south of Florence. She was in charge of the campground programs which included nature study and crafts, Jr. Ranger programs, evening campfire programs at the amphitheater, sand dune hikes and kayak tours. Mary started the ever popular 4th of July campground park parade at Honeyman. In 2001, she was transferred to Heceta Lighthouse to train and monitor the volunteers giving tours.  Daily she swept the stairs and dusted the lens. She designed a lighthouse booklet for kids, creating simple inexpensive displays all the while falling in love with Heceta Lightstation. She knew someday she wanted to volunteer at the Keepers House.

In May of 2017, now retired, Mary started volunteering in the Interpretive Center at the keeper's house giving summer tours. Mary was hooked. With a love for the Heceta Lightstation history, photography and the stories that go with old photos, she began researching and updating the displays on the first floor of the Keepers House. Major changes in the Interpretive displays have been completed.

And this is not the end of the story. During the winter of 2017, while researching and organizing anything she could find on Heceta, Mary learned the Heceta Light Keeper’s original Log Books are archived at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Don’t tell Mary she can’t do something because she will find a way. With airline tickets in hand, laptop and suitcase, she is prepared to go to D.C. and make copies of anything related to Heceta. Mary truly has a love for sharing the history of the lighthouse, to include stories from the people that lived, worked, and played at this magical place they called home.


Come for a visit

Come visit the beautiful Queen Anne style Keeper’s House and take a historical tour that includes the history of the house, from its construction in 1892 to the present day, as well as the lifestyles of some of the most famous (or infamous) inhabitants.  Discover what it took to get the first lightkeepers to stay at Heceta, how the house was saved from demolition, what everyday life was like and what you can do to help keep the house alive as a historic site in your community!

Open Everyday from Memorial Day to Labor Day -

11am to 3pm
(except Wednesdays or days with special celebrations

Interested in becoming a Volunteer Docent? Click Here for more info

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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.