Terrible Tilly, Oregon's legendary lighthouse, is for sale
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Sunday, July 21, 2024

Terrible Tilly, Oregon's legendary lighthouse, is for sale
A view of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in Cannon Beach, Ore., on Oct. 23, 2007. The current owner of the lighthouse, built in 1881, has used it for decades to store cremated remains. Its new owners will decide its next chapter. Stuart Isett/The New York Times

by Christine Hauser

NEW YORK, NY.- From a distance, the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse looks like a real-estate investor’s dream. There are views of Oregon’s coast from the tower, perched on a rugged island a mile offshore. Most days, the solitude is broken only by the sound of crashing waves, and the seclusion is broken only by nesting birds and sea lions.

After more than a century weathering storms, guiding ocean mariners, hosting wildlife and serving as a repository for cremated human remains, the lighthouse known in local legend as Terrible Tilly is being prepared for its next owners.

But first, they will need $6.5 million, a unique vision and a way to get there.

The island is a craggy basalt rock that juts up from water so rough that boats cannot dock. It can be reached only by helicopter, and even those sometimes have to circle until the sea lions have shuffled off the landing pad, said Mimi Morissette, director of Eternity at Sea, an Oregon-based company that owns and is selling the lighthouse.

The building and lantern tower need gut renovations. Sea lions and pounding storms have busted through doors. Windows are boarded. Nesting birds have coated surfaces with droppings. Urns holding remains, including those of Morissette’s parents, are stashed inside.

Morissette has introduced Terrible Tilly to the businesses she thought might be the best fit for its next stewards: the death industry.

Photographs of the lighthouse and pamphlets were displayed at the annual convention of the International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association in Las Vegas in March. Some cemetery owners balked, thinking customers would not want to store remains in a facility they could not visit, she said.

“My response was that we know that our project is not for everyone,” she said. “I have an inquiry from a local helicopter company, which could be a perfect match with a company in the death care industry.”

Who wants to buy a lighthouse, anyway?

Over 300 years, more than 1,000 lighthouses were installed in the United States, guiding mariners from ship-crushing shorelines.

Some have been destroyed in natural disasters or replaced by automation and transformed into residences, inns and museums. Up to five lighthouses are sold every year through government auctions.

The beacon and foghorn of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse were activated in 1881. As Oregon’s only offshore light, its inauguration was overshadowed by tragedy, coming three weeks after the British ship Lupata rammed into a nearby promontory in fog on Jan. 3, killing all aboard.

For 76 years, Tilly guided ships to Columbia River shipping lanes until it was decommissioned in 1957, replaced by an electronic buoy, according to the National Register of Historic Places.

But the tower, rising 136 feet above sea level, continued to inspire tales and visions, although it appears as but a wisp in the distance from Oregon’s beaches.

It became known locally as Terrible Tilly because of the isolated and stormy conditions workers endured while tending it, said Andrea Suarez-Kemp, manager of the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum.

“Everyone loves to tell stories of seeing mysterious lights and figures, especially during and after a good storm,” she said. “People come into the museum a lot to ask us if Tilly is really decommissioned, because they could swear they saw lights.”

In 1959, the U.S. General Services Administration put the lighthouse up for sale. A group of Las Vegas investors purchased it for $5,600, possibly to install a casino, and then sold it for $11,000 in 1973 to George Hupman, a General Electric executive in New York, who wanted to use it as a summer retreat, according to the register.

The Hupman family rented a helicopter for $260 an hour, flying three passengers at a time. They found the 1-acre island taken over by birds and the stench of droppings.

“Sure, it’s dilapidated,” Hupman told KGW in 1978, in a video recorded on the island as his family tried to clean up.

“The paint’s peeling off, and it’s a mess inside and out,” he said. “But that structure’s going to be there for a long time, one way or another. And, I don’t know, it’s an exciting and strong place in midst of a moving and turbulent environment. It gives you a great feeling, being here.”

After a few trips, he sold it for $27,000 to Max Shillock Jr. of Portland, the register said. He eventually ceded the property to his lender, The Oregonian said in its report last month.

Morissette and partners purchased it in 1980 for $50,000 to use as a columbarium, state records show. It lost its license in 1999 and was rejected for a new one in 2005 because of violations that included poor record-keeping and improper storage, according to the records. Morissette said it was shut down for a technical violation, The Times reported in 2007.

How to sell an island columbarium

This month, Morissette put out a call on her Facebook page for volunteers to “be part of Tilly’s history and salvation” and fly out to help clean up the island after the summer. Because it’s a nesting sanctuary, visiting is not allowed from April to September, she said.

“Part of the cleanup is to evict the sea lions that have knocked in the corroding front door, which will be replaced with a permanent titanium door,” she said in an interview.

The plan is for the lighthouse to appeal as an alternative to scattering cremated remains at sea, by encasing them in titanium urns in a bank of niches.

David Adams, a funeral business consultant with the Johnson Consulting Group in Scottsdale, Arizona, who is brokering the sale, is aiming for an official pitch by Memorial Day.

“It’s going to have to take somebody with an entrepreneurial spirit,” he said.

The cremation rate in the United States was low when Morissette, a 77-year-old Oregon resident with a background in real estate development, purchased the lighthouse over four decades ago. The rate reached 56% in 2020 and is rising, the Cremation Association of North America said.

“I find it intriguing some people still like the romance of scattering ashes at sea: ‘Dad’s out in the ocean and Mom’s still floating with sharks,’” Adams said.

“Although romantic in many regards, it is somewhat final. There is no real place to focus on, to go back and memorialize,” he said.

The lighthouse, he added, “gives them a specific focal point.”


The lightkeepers of Tillamook Rock

Whether entrepreneurs or dreamers, the new owners will inherit a structure where years of dramatic history unfolded.

There were two deaths: A mason tumbled into the ocean in 1879, and a painter fell off a ladder onto the rocks in 1911. “It is a mysterious place, and a little macabre,” said Brian Ratty, author of “Tillamook Rock Lighthouse: History & Tales of Terrible Tilly.”

In 1944, James Gibbs Jr., a Coast Guardsman, was deployed to the lighthouse as one of four keepers. A small boat transported him to the island, where he climbed into a harness that was lowered from above and was hauled up by rope, dangling over waves crashing against the rocks, he wrote in his memoir, “Tillamook Light.”

“Everywhere I looked, the place took on more of the aspects of an insane asylum instead of what I had pictured a lighthouse to be,” he wrote.

The men stood eight-hour watches and took turns cooking. Seas leaped 134 feet to the top of the lantern tower, breaking windows and filling it with rocks and debris. The foghorn was deafening. A moaning “ghost” haunted the winding, 77-step staircase. The light itself was like a “monstrous diamond” that beamed 18 miles out to sea in warnings to ships.

“What had I gotten myself into?” he wrote.

In an interview in 2009, Gibbs, then 87, said it was a mystery how the lighthouse and its keepers had withstood so many years of spirits and storms. “I thought many times of jumping off the rock when I first got there,” he said.

On Sept. 1, 1957, Oswald Allik, one of Gibbs’ fellow keepers, wrote a farewell message to the lighthouse in the final entry in its log.

“Keepers have come and gone; men lived and died; but you were faithful to the end,” Allik wrote. “May your sunset years be good years.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

April 29, 2022

After a tempest, Philip Guston shines in a show true to his spirit

San Francisco Art Institute receives $200K grant from the Mellon Foundation to support its Diego Rivera fresco

1920's/1930's cars, Demetre Chiparus bronze - top sellers at Roland Auction NY April 23rd auction

'Ira Simon Collection' outstrips expectations in "white glove sale" at Toomey & Co.

Pace presents a focused selection of paintings and works on paper by Richard Pousette-Dart

An extensive survey of the work of the late artistic duo François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne opens in London

Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale presents 'History of Night and Destiny of Comets'

Terrible Tilly, Oregon's legendary lighthouse, is for sale

"Adam Silverman: Marks and Markers" opens at Friedman Benda

Renoir from collection of former Washington Post President & COO to highlight Hindman American & European Art Auction

Combating sensory overload: How zoos and museums are redefining inclusion

Barnes Foundation opens centennial year with first exhibition dedicated to Native American art

Andrew Wyeth works to be made accessible through historic partnership

New exhibition at Rowan University Art Gallery explores the complexities attributed to gardens and cultivated spaces

Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, award-winning Hispanic novelist, dies at 93

Billy Crystal carries the tune in 'Mr. Saturday Night'

Composers give new shape to Ornette Coleman's jazz

The estate of legendary entertainers Siegfried & Roy comes to auction at Bonhams

V&A unveils new film: Creativity. It's what makes us.

Michele Gabriele's The Vernal Age of Miry Mirrors' curated by Treti Galaxie opens at NAM - Not A Museum

German Pop art icon at auction for the first time

Sarah Silverman's family show (really!) about divorce and depression

Kenneth Tsang, veteran Hong Kong actor, dies at 87

Solo exhibition of old and new work by Rafael Melendez opens at Fitzrovia Gallery

Between essence and appearance: Italian sculptor Jo Endoro on display in Miami

7 Common React Native App Development Mistakes That You Need to Avoid - 2022

5 Proven Techniques To Get More Followers On TikTok

What to Know About Bidding on Heavy Machinery

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful