Cape Blanco Lighthouse (1870-1980)
The Cape Blanco Lighthouse is located in Curry County, along the southern coastline of Oregon. Cape Blanco Lighthouse was constructed in 1870, and it is the oldest light house in Oregon. It is also the most western lighthouse in Oregon, projecting one and one half miles out from the normal flow of the coastline. The naming of the lighthouse was by the Spanish. Spanish explorers named the cape, Cape Blanco because the cape sits near the edge of white, chalky cliffs that are about 200 feet high. The lighthouse took the name of Cape Blanco. Cape Blanco Lighthouse was mainly used for navigational purposes.This was for ships going up and down the coast, keeping them away from the rocky area.
Backstory and Context
Before construction was started in 1870, the cape was covered in dense spruce forests. All of the trees were cut down, which was a good supply for lumber. Cutting down the trees also prevented against wide spread forest fires, and reduced the amount of fog in the area. There were no roads leading into the cape, therefore The Lighthouse Board of Congress developed a plan for a cost effective way to build Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Their plan was to have the bricks made at the cape, instead of having them transported from San Francisco. The board paid a man to make 200 thousand bricks for $25 per thousand bricks. The Cape Blanco Lighthouse was completed in the same year. The lighthouse stands nearly 50 feet high. The first lens, that was installed in the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. was a seacoast lens that measures six feet one inch high and four feet seven inches in diameter. This was an oil fueled lamp that could be seen from 22 miles away. Later, in 1910, the Bunsen lamp was installed. This lamp was fueled by kerosene.
Weather, was a continuous problem for the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Multiple repairs were made to the lighthouse, as well as, repairs to the station buildings around the lighthouse. The location of the lighthouse faced many strong winds. This resulted in the roof of the keeper’s dwelling being ripped off, and leaving some of the walls damaged. Transportation was also a concern for Cape Blanco. 20 years before the construction of the lighthouse, the town Port Orford was established. Port Orford was the closet town to Cape Blanco, therefore the keeper’s needed a way to get there. In 1884, a wagon road was constructed across the beach for half of the roads distance. This meant that the only time someone could travel on the road was during low tide. There was also concerns with the Elk River causing quicksand across that roadway. In 1886, a 7,000 foot road was constructed to connect the lighthouse station to Port Orford, safely.
Many of the buildings that were constructed, when the lighthouse was constructed, are not still standing today. There were actually two Keeper’s Dwellings at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse stations. The first one was built when the lighthouse was being built. It was 100 feet south of the lighthouse. The second Keeper’s Dwelling was built in 1909, east of the original one. There was also a barn, woodshed, oil house, and a washhouse. These buildings were key things during that period, but, later, there was no need for them. The Cape Blanco Lighthouse and the attached workroom are the only buildings left at the station.
In 1980, the lighthouse station was de-staffed. Over ten years after this, the Cape Blanco Lighthouse was broken into by two teenage boys. They destroyed one of the lens. The repair for the lens cost $80,000. The Cape Blanco Lighthouse is now a part of the Cape Blanco State Park, and opened up to visitors on April 1, 1996. In the early 2000s, there were later renovations made to the lighthouse, such as the removal of the lens from the lighthouse, and the replacement of the roof and windows.
Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Lighthousefriends.com. Accessed November 16, 2017. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/101f53ed-03ec-492d-89c6-466271bbf14d?branding=NRHP.