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Yaquina Head Lighthouse No.1

Yaquina Head Lighthouse No.1


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Yaquina Head Lighthouse

The U.S. Lighthouse Board completed Yaquina Head Lighthouse in 1873 on Yaquina Head, a narrow peninsula of Columbia basalt that juts nearly a mile out to sea, about three miles north of Newport. The headland is within the traditional territories of the Yaquina people and was an important place for harvesting shellfish and other coastal resources.

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In the mid-nineteenth century, the headland was close to the coastal midpoint of the Coast Reservation before it was reduced in size during the late 1850s and 1860s and then disbanded. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse rises 162 feet above the ocean beach. The 93-foot tower of the lighthouse is the tallest on the Oregon Coast, and the light can be seen nineteen miles out to sea.

The U.S. Lighthouse Board had long identified the Newport area as a location for a lighthouse to ensure that the coast had regularly spaced lights. Due to the board’s changing understanding of regional maritime commerce, however, the area ended up with two lighthouses. The board belatedly recognized that a lighthouse serving maritime traffic from Yaquina Head would assist mariners more than a local light that guided ships into Yaquina Bay. 

There has long been confusion as to whether Yaquina Head Lighthouse was built on the correct headland. In early General Land Office records and survey plats, the headland was sometimes referred to as Cape Foulweather, but research confirms that the Lighthouse Board had always targeted Yaquina Head for the lighthouse. George Davidson’s Pacific Coast Pilot clarified the name in 1889, and beginning in 1896 the U.S. government’s List of Lights and Fog Signals, Pacific Coast of the United States referred to the headland as Yaquina Head.

Congress approved $90,000 (almost $2 million in 2020 dollars) for the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in 1871, but construction was slow and torturous. Workers wrestled with winter storms, and two boats were lost while trying to deliver building materials to the site. Construction materials shipped from San Francisco often had to be offloaded at Newport and then transported by wagon to the site. The double-walled tower required more than 370,000 bricks made by the Patent Brick Company in San Rafael, California, and metalwork was manufactured in Philadelphia and completed in June 1872 by Oregon Iron Works, a Clackamas company. The lighthouse tower was built using the same design as the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, constructed in 1852, fifty miles south of San Francisco. The keeper’s house, a two-and-a-half-story wooden structure, was completed in September 1872; a second keeper’s house was added in 1922.

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