Built a little over a mile offshore from Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach, the lighthouse offers a unique history and faces an uncertain future.
Also known as “Terrible Tilly,” it is Oregon’s only offshore lighthouse. Rising 133 feet about the whipping waters of the Pacific Ocean, Terribly Tilly is easy to spot but difficult to reach.
Situated on less than an acre of basalt rock in the Pacific Ocean, it was built in 1881 to guide ships along the ocean and to the Columbia River. Constructing the lighthouse was grueling. Accessing the rock was dangerous. Unpredictable and stormy weather wreaked havoc on the crew, supplies, and morale. Not surprisingly, at more than $123,000–and over 500 days–its construction costs made it the most expensive lighthouse built in that era.
After manning it for 77 years, the U.S. Lighthouse Service turned it over to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939. But by 1957, it was decommissioned. At that time, it was listed on the National Registrary of Historic Places. Eventually, it was put up for sale and Las Vegas investors bought it sight unseen two years later for $5,600 at an auction.
The site changed hands a few more times until the current investors/owners purchased it in 1980. They established the Eternity-at-Sea Columbarium—a place where 30 funeral urns currently rest.
New Owners Sought
Now its current owners are interested in selling the unique site/Ideally, a new owner would expand the Columbarium business. The current asking price for the site is $6.5 million.
Recently a team of five people was helicoptered out to the rock where they camped out for three days. Their job was to clean up the stone building to get it ready for sale. They also collected relics that could be used to raise funds for more maintenance work. While the site needs paint and more cleanup, the structure stands firm.
The private Tillamook Rock property is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, It can only be reached by helicopter–and with the owners’ permission. Access also depends on the weather and if sea lions aren’t overcrowding the landing site.
The last lighthouse keeper to leave the island post wrote lyrically about Terrible Tilly in the official logbook He said that the Tillamook Lighthouse was “one of the most notorious and yet “fascinating of the sea-swept sentinels in the world.”
He stated that its “beacon has been a star of hope” and its foghorn “a voice of encouragement” through “howling gale, thick fog and driving rain.”
So when you are ready to plan your next stay at Tolovana Inn, be sure to take a few moments to watch the waves pound the rocks around “Terrible Tilly.”
Call 503-436-2211 to learn more about reserving your stay or our on-site amenities.