The Oregon Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was in operation for 76 years from 1881 to 1957. Located a little over a mile from the Oregon coast, the lighthouse stands on an isolated basalt rock.
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The construction of the Oregon Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is considered a marvel of engineering. During the construction period, the materials for the lighthouse had to be transported across the rough sea waters. The workers had to endure the crashing waves and strong winds for the 575 days that it took to complete the lighthouse. One life was lost during the surveying process and after public outcry against the project, the building of the lighthouse was done in secret with workers being secluded from the general population.
Oregon Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Keepers
Life for the lighthouse keepers was rough. The watch was kept by four men working in shifts. The men were often stranded here for months at a time due to the harsh storms that sent waves and debris, including boulders and logs, crashing over the rock and into the lighthouse. Since the seas were so rough, the workers and supplies were often transported using a breeches buoy and a cable winch system.
The harsh life and isolation on the rock caused some of its keepers to go insane. Even seasoned lighthouse keepers considered life on Tillamook to be extreme, and the lighthouse eventually earned the nickname “Terrible Tilly”.
The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1957 and replaced with a whistle buoy system. Due to its isolated location and exposure to extreme elements, the lighthouse was one of the most expensive to operate in the history of the United States.
After being decommissioned the lighthouse lay abandoned for two decades. It was then bought by private owners who wanted to turn it into a columbarium cemetery (cemetery for cremated remains). The Eternity at Sea Columbarium company used the lighthouse as an advertisement for a unique place to store one’s ashes. These remains were said to be honorary light keepers. However, the company lost their license in the late 1990s and attempts to reinstate it have failed.
The only access to the Oregon Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is by helicopter, and even for the owners, this access is limited to certain periods of the year. The lighthouse can be viewed from the Ecola State Park, but it is not open to, or accessible by, the public.