On a secluded rock, just over a mile off Oregon’s rocky shores lies the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Terrible Tilly, as it became known as, is one of the most fascinating and secluded lighthouses of America. In operation from 1881 until it was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1957.
The lonely basalt rock on which it stands is considering one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th Century. It took less than 600 long and arduous days to construct. The name Tilly was born of a series of mishaps from the death of one of the original contractors to the loss of a British Bark call the Lupatia. In early January of 1881, just a few days before the lighthouse was lit for the first time, most of the crew of the Lupatia perished. The ship’s dog was the only survivor.
During its life as a fully functioning lighthouse Tilly acted as a warning beacon to thousands of vessel skirting the coastline. The Columbia River became a busy part of marine commerce in the mid-to-late 1800’s. The waters surrounding the mouth of the Columbia River were and are still considered the most dangerous in the world. Ships lost to the sea were so common that the waters became known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. It was home to a crew of up to five men at a time. Women were never stationed there due to the difficulty and danger involved in getting on and off the rock.
Some argue that the life after being decommissioned was the most interesting part of Tilly. Rumors of owners with mob ties, claims of ghosts and ganders, owners who intended to turn it into a secluded vacation rental and finally time spent as a columbarium.
Find out more about how the lighthouse was constructed, what it was like to be stationed there, and finally what happened after it was decommissioned. A portion of the original Fresnel lens will be on display which is one of the few artifacts left of the decaying lighthouse.
This exhibit will be on display through December 2014.