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Coquille River Light, Bandon, Oregon


2017; Photo ⓒ Madeline Cameron

The Oregon coast is known for quite a few scenic locations: Canon Beach, Cape Perpetua, Three Capes Scenic Loop, and 11 lighthouses. We've already taken a deep dive into Heceta Head, and this week we travel further south to the mouth of the Coquille River, named for the nearby Coquille Native Americans.


The town of Bandon was founded in 1889, at the mouth of the river. The town's location was very strategic, as the river was a prime resource for water transportation and shipping. However, the channel was rocky and dangerous. At the turn of the 20th century, the town undertook a large rehabilitation project, part of which included building a lighthouse at the mouth of the river. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the light in 1891, and construction began in 1895. The lighthouse was completed in 1896, and was the last lighthouse built by the government in Oregon.

1897 map of Thirteenth Lighthouse District; Courtesy of National Archives

The light, also known as Bandon Lighthouse, is relatively small, especially compared to other large Oregon lighthouses like Yaquina Head. The façade has very few decorative elements, mainly just segmented arch window and door lintels. These details, although limited, place the lighthouse in the realm of High Victorian Italianate style. The floor plan is octagonal.


The structure is comprised of just a tower and mechanical room with no living quarters. The walls are stuccoed brick masonry. The keepers' house, which no longer stands, was situated 650 feet away and included a house and barn. The original light was a Fourth Order Fresnel lens and was accompanied by a Daboll trumpet as a foghorn. The trumpet was later replaced by a fog siren in 1910. The light emitted a fixed white signal, with a 2-second eclipse every 30 seconds. It could be seen for 13 miles.

Bandon Light and keeper's duplex, c. 1900; Courtesy of Bandon Historical Society

U.S. Patent 28837A "Fog Alarm" by C.L. Daboll, granted June 26, 1860

In 1936, a massive fire swept through Bandon and decimated a lot of the early waterfront architecture. 500 buildings were lost to the fire, but the lighthouse survived as a symbol of the town's early history.


This original lighthouse was utilized until 1939, when an automated light beacon was built further out on the southern jetty. The Fresnel lens and fog siren were removed from Coquille. The lighthouse was effectively abandoned at this point and sat neglected for the next 3 decades. A glimmer of hope emerged in 1963, when the USCG leased the lighthouse and the surrounding 34 acres of land to the State of Oregon to be used as a park. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was ignored by the state and fell into severe disrepair over the next few decades. The 1974 NRHP nomination described the light as: "leaves much to be desired."

1974; Courtesy of National Park Service

In 1976, Oregon finally recognized the potential the lighthouse had for public use and it was restored as an interpretive center through a joint effort with the US Army Corps of Engineers. The restored light was opened to the public in 1979. A solar-powered light was later installed as part of Bandon's centennial celebration in 1991 - the first time the lighthouse had shone in nearly 6 decades.


Due to the exposed location of the lighthouse, another extensive restoration project was required again in the mid-2000s. The project cost $600,000 and involved replacing almost every aspect of the building. It was worth it because today Coquille River Lighthouse is a stunning feature of Bullards Beach State Park - which covers 1,289 acres of oceanfront land. Visitors can also enjoy beachcombing and taking in the ocean views and passing ships.




Sources:


Keepers:

James F. Barker (1896-1897)

Edward Durgan (1898-1899)

Adam Hartman (1899-1906)

Oscar Wiren (1906-1921)

Oscar Langlois (1921-1939)


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