Abandoned and Abused It Stands

May 08, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Coquille River LighthouseCoquille River Lighthouse

The Abandoned Bandon Lighthouse -

Abuse is the first word that comes to mind looking at the Coquille River Lighthouse. Originally known as the Bandon Light and completed in 1896 with $50,000 in congressional appropriated funds, it has taken abuse from the weather - rain, snow, wind and the damaging sea salt air of the Pacific Ocean. It has withstood the abuse by vandals and just plain neglect by human hands. Abandoned as unsalvageable in 1939 because on a new automated beacon on the south jetty to the river, it still persists and refuses to go away, standing valiantly as guard over the entry to the Coquille River in Bandon Oregon. Though renovated in 1976 you would hardly know it looking at it today. When built it was desperately needed to help guide large ships past the treacherous sand bars at the mouth of the Coquille River. Ships were there to load prime timber from Oregon's forestlands. Built in the High Victorian Italiante style of architecture, octagonal in shape with a conical 40 foot high tower, it was originally equipped with a fourth-order Fresnel lens and a huge trumpet in the tower facing west, toward the Pacific, that blared out warning signals to approaching ships. The schooners Moro in 1896 and the Advance in 1897 both ran aground on the north jetty despite the lighthouse. It was reported by each captain that the trumpet sound confused them in navigating the river entrance. The trumpet was later replaced by a fog horn signal because the trumpet sound even irritated the town folk.

The town of Bandon was founded in 1873 by an Irish immigrant Lord George Bennett, who named the town after his hometown in Ireland. While establishing his newly founded town he introduced a plant indigenous to Ireland known as Gorse, also commonly referred to as Scotch Broom. This plant is especially oily and  easily fuels the spread of fire. In the late summer of 1936, a small patch of gorse caught fire several miles east of town and was spreading eastward away from town when the wind suddenly shifted. Within six short hours the entire town was engulfed in flames shooting 100 feet into the air. Scotch Broom had been planted everywhere in town, in between buildings and in front yards as well as backyards. Virtually the entire town burned to the ground that day including the log piled piers where ships were loading logs. Burning through acres of Scotch Broom, the fire was unstoppable said one town firefighter. "Dousing the flames with water was like pouring gasoline on the fire", he said. Ten town residents perished during the fire that day. Hundreds of people had gathered on the south jetty during the fire so as to be ferried over to the north side of the river where the lighthouse stood. The Bandon Lighthouse constructed of concrete, stone and stucco was a safe haven from the fire. It provided the town folk shelter in time of need. As you can see in this photo, Scotch Broom is still a common plant in and around Bandon.


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