Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lighthouse in the Middle of the Willamette

Update: Want to see these photos in modern 3D with your smart phone? You can! Jump to the bottom of the article for instructions!

When you think of lighthouses, lonely outposts marking a rocky ocean shore are what usually come to mind. But this one was different: it sat in the mouth of Oregon's Willamette River, where it empties into the Columbia.

Our photo is one half of a stereoview showing the Willamette Lightstation, which once sat off of what today is called Kelley Point.

The Willamette River hosted a lot of commercial traffic in the mid- to late-1800s, and captains continually complained about the need for better navigational aids. By the early 1890s, the river was marked by a series of buoys and small lights. But the confluence of the river, and the presence of a low island there that would often flood, called for a better marker. Thus a full lighthouse was proposed, and funding was secured in 1894, with the facility going into service in 1895. A red light was mounted to one of the first floor railings, and it would flash every four seconds, and a fog bell would ring every ten seconds.

The house was designed by lighthouse architect Carl W. Leick, whose motto was "Build 'em stout, make 'em last"; Other than the annoying sound of the bell all night, it must have been a delightful place to live. It was an octagonal building mounted high on pilings with the building painted white and the metal roof was red. The second floor featured four graceful gabled windows, each facing a point on the compass. On the roof was a fenced Widow's Walk.

 It continued in service until 1935 when it was replaced by an automated light built on a dike extending out from the shore, eliminating the need for an in-residence keeper. The house itself was sold and sometime in the 1940s was craned to a lower set of pilings on Kelley Point where it served as an office for the Portland Mercantile Exchange, to track the comings and goings of merchant vessels. The exchange later build a more modern office and abandoned the old house, which then burned down in 1950.

Kelly Point from Google Maps. The tiny vertical line going up from the point is the dike to the current automated light.

The Willamette Lightstation also shows up in a few other places on the internet:


Want to see these photos in modern 3D with your smart phone? You can! All you need is one of the popular cardboard VR viewers - more details can be found on this tutorial page - and to download the version of the card on the right. 

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