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Oregon Coast History in Beautiful Port Orford
Port Orford

If you like history the Southern Oregon Coast has a lot to offer. You must stop in Port Orford and visit Historic Landmarks; Patrick Hughes House, Cape Blanco Lighthouse and the Port Orford Lifeboat Station.

Historic Patrick Hughes House

Hughes HouseConstructed in 1898 for a pioneer dairy farmer, the Hughes House is an ornate, authentically restored Victorian home that allows visitors a chance to see what life was like at the turn of the last century.

A fine example of late Victorian architecture, the Hughes ranch house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1898 by P.J. Lindberg, it was a celebration of 38 years of hard work by Patrick and Jane Hughes.

The historic Hughes ranch house is a two story, eleven room house solidly framed of 2x8 old growth Port Orford cedar. The rectangular structure with cross axial wings, has over 3,000 square feet, and was constructed in 1898 at a cost for $3,800.

The house stands on a terrace on the north side of Cape Blanco. There are vistas of the distant hills, the Pacific Ocean, the Sixes River and the fields above and below. This location protects the house from the worst of the winter southwesters, but northwesters are still frequent visitors.

Guests now as then enter the front hall where soft light from a rose colored gaslight is reflected in the polished dark wood spindles and shiny balusters of the central stairway. The sharp odor of homemade furniture polish—probably equal parts turpentine, linseed oil and vinegar—lingers in the air.

hugheshouseinteriorVisitors would be seated in the formal guest parlor, decorated in shades of rose. The front parlor was the most public and significant room of a Victorian house. Reflecting the wealthy status of the Hughes family, the fireplace in this room has a shallow firebox designed to burn coal rather than cheaper and easily obtained wood.

The men's parlor was well-used. Simply furnished, it was here the men retired at day's end to catch up on bookwork and reading. The central focus of the room is a massive wood-burning fireplace, making it one of the warmest rooms in the house. For the most part, it was the men who gathered around the large table in the dining room. Jane, and later Annie, spent a great deal of time in the spacious kitchen fixing meals for the men. A cheery place to work, it was warmed by a great cast iron wood cook stove. Adjoining the kitchen and dining room is a pass-thru-pantry with storage bins for the large quantities of staples they purchased. Also on the first floor is the master bedroom and bath. While electricity was late in coming (1942), the house was built with indoor plumbing. Water heated by the kitchen stove provided the enjoyment of a warm bath. The room still has the original wood trimmed claw-footed tub. Origin of the hand-painted ceiling is unknown.

A beautiful mahogany banister leads the way to the second floor where the most interesting feature is the chapel. John Hughes was a Roman Catholic priest serving a parish in Portland. Additionally, John was the second native Oregonian to be ordained in Oregon. The altar is believed to be original. The worn rug on the floor probably came from another room. Origin of the hand-painted ceiling is unknown.

Edward, Thomas and Francis each had a room on this floor. When Francis married, he and Annie used the oddly-shaped room for their only child Joseph. The largest room was set aside for guests. It was the fanciest of all the bedrooms and well-used by family and friends of the Hughes family.

Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Oregon's Oldest Continuously Operating Light

capeblancolighthousePerched high atop a cliff, jutting into the sea is the Cape Blanco Lighthouse; its brilliant beacon guiding mariners past jagged, hidden rocks for well over 100 years.

Towering above the westernmost point in Oregon, 9 miles north of Port Orford off U.S. 101 Cape Blanco is the oldest standing lighthouse on Oregon coast; commissioned in 1870 to aid shipping generated by gold mining and lumber industry. Cape Blanco’s clifftop location is 245 feet above ocean; conical tower rises 59 feet. Automated equipment installed by U.S. Coast Guard in 1980. Cape Blanco is rich with history of ancient peoples and early explorers traversing the coast line. Today the romance of the lighthouse draws thousands of visitors to the grounds to learn its secrets.

Lighthouse history is shared with guests from all over the world, through a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Oregon State Parks, the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, Coquille Indian Tribe, Curry County and the Friends of Cape Blanco.

Tour Cape Blanco and learn what sets it apart from other Oregon lighthouses. Explore Oregon's only working lighthouse, where you can climb into the working lantern room where the historic lens brings the light keepers job to life. Learn about the four Oregon records Cape Blanco holds: Oldest continuously operating lighthouse, Focal plane is highest above the sea, most Westerly, and the first official Woman keeper worked here. Cape Blanco stands above highly rated wildlife viewing area.

Friends of Cape Blanco

Port Orford Lifeboat Station

surfman badge

"You have to go out,

but you don't have to come back...."

Surfman's motto

Imagine men scrambling down 532 steep, slippery wood and concrete steps on a 280-ft. cliff in a raging storm to a 36-ft boat…surrounded by waves and rocks, buffeted by brutal winds, tearing out to sea to rescue sailors on a ship in trouble.

These men were US Coast Guard “surfmen,” and launched search and rescue missions from the Port Orford Heads 1934 to 1970. They were responsible for a 40-mile stretch of coastline between Cape Blanco and Cape Sebastian. Men on a 37-ft lookout tower, perched at the westernmost tip of the Heads, watched for distress signals that sent the surfmen down to the boathouse in Nellies Cove.

It was a hard challenge. To fuel the lifeboats, crewmen carried five-gallon cans down to the cove, one can in each hand, until the tanks were full. And the brutal Winter storms could easily hold winds in excess of 100 mph.


The Point Orford Heritage Society, working with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, established a museum on this historic site June 3, 2000, giving visitors a glimpse into the life and responsibilities of the brave men who saved lives by putting their own on the line.

The two-story crew quarters and office building, the officer-in-charge residence, garage, storage building and pump house are still standing. Together with curbed driveways, areas of lawn and privet hedge surrounding the structures and the elevated paths and walkways, the ensemble conveys a particular sense of place and time.

The park’s main trails–the Cove, Tower and Headland trails– begin at the museum. From a viewpoint on the Cove Trail, watch for remnants of the stairway to Nellies Cove. The boathouse, burned down in the late 1970s, but you can still see its pilings and breakwater structures as well as portions of a rail-mounted carriage used to launch the boats into the cove.

In the museum, read about the 1942 Japanese submarine attacks off the south Oregon coast. You can also have an authentic GI "dog tag" made on a vintage machine. The Tower Trail leads to the historical location of the observation tower, which was removed when the station was decommissioned in 1970.

The park has excellent hiking trails on the headlands affording spectacular views up and down the Pacific Coast.

During the war, the Coast Guard was placed under the operational command of the U.S. Navy. The number of men assigned to the station increased to well over one hundred as the mission included coastal defense as well as lifesaving. Coast Guardsmen were sleeping in the attic and, with too many for the barracks, Neptune's Lodge (now the Castaway Motel) or the old Port Authority building were leased to house the overflow.

Wartime defenses were dramatic. There was a guardhouse, sentries, guard dogs, barbed wire, machine gun pits and foxholes. Below the foxholes stood a twenty-millimeter cannon, and there were gun lockers and cases of grenades in the armory. Historically, sailors and local fishermen triangulated their position at sea using the lifeboat station's watchtower and Cape Blanco lighthouse. Thus, the Coast Guard’s pure white tower could not be camouflaged. The walkway to the tower through the woods, however, was dark. To assist the Coasties trying to find their way in low-light conditions, white arrows were painted on the concrete. The arrows are faintly visible to this day.