California Lighthouses - Page 2
Point Vicente Lighthouse
Rancho Palos Verdes, California

Location:  Located in Rancho Palos Verdes, approximately 15 miles west of Long Beach.
Latitude: N 33.74193
Longitude:  W 118.41076

Year Constructed:  1926. Active
Tower Height:  67 feet    Focal Plane:  185 feet

Cylindrical reinforced concrete tower, painted white. The original Barbier, Bernard and Turenne 3rd order Fresnel lens (1886, transferred from an Alaskan lighthouse) is still in use.
The Palos Verdes Peninsula is the most prominent coastal feature between Point Loma to the south and Point Conception to the north.  Despite the point's prominence, funding for a lighthouse to mark this turning point into the harbors of San Pedro and Long Beach was not approved until 1916.

The site on the point was fully acquire in 1922, but the fog signal was not activated until June 20, 1925, and the light atop the 67-foot cylindrical Point Vicente Lighthouse was not exhibited until April 14, 1926.

The light source was dimmed during World War II to avoid aiding the enemy. After the war, nearby residents complained about the bright flashes when the light was returned to its normal power, so the landward side of the lantern room was painted an opaque, pearly white.

Although automated in 1971, the station, complete with three keeper's quarters and a fog signal building, still houses Coast Guard personnel.  The original Fresnel lens still revolves in the lantern room, producing two white flashes every twenty seconds. Powered by a 1,000 watt bulb, the light is rated at 437,000 candle power and can be seen up to twenty miles at sea.
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San Francisco, California

Location:  Located on the south side of the entrance to San Francisco Bay west of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Latitude:  N 37.79282
Longitude:  W 122.510375

Year Constructed:  1906 (James A. McMahon). Active
Tower Height:  35 feet    Focal Plane:  49 feet

Circular 1-story steel building mounted on a massive stone caisson, painted with red and white horizontal bands; rotating aerobeacon.
Mile Rocks Lighthouse
The southern side of the entrance to the Golden Gate is dotted with a family of dangerous wave-swept rocks.  In November of 1889, the Lighthouse Service placed a bell buoy near the rocks. However, the strong currents in the area would pull the buoy beneath the surface of the water and even set it adrift.  A tragic wreck provided ample motivation to overcome the obstacles inherent in constructing a lighthouse atop Mile Rock.

A good portion of Mile Rock, which measured 40 by 30 feet, was blasted away to provide a level foundation. Next, four-feet thick walls made of steel-reinforced concrete were built to a height of thirty-five feet to form the base of the tower. A cistern and fuel tanks were located within the base, with a heavy door at the base providing access for refueling. Atop the caisson, a three-tiered steel tower, capped by a lantern room, was constructed.  the lantern room with its crosshatched window panes protected a third-order Fresnel lens, which was first lit during the winter of 1906.

In 1966, the Coast Guard dismantled the lantern room and top two tiers of the lighthouse and constructed the landing pad.  Although the base of the tower is now painted with colorful orange and white bands, the beauty of the structure was greatly compromised when the tower was decapitated.
Fort Point Lighthouse
San Francisco, California

Location: Located under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge in Fort Point National Historic Site.
Latitude:  N 37.8108
Longitude:  W 122.47732

Year Constructed:  1864 (station established 1855). Inactive since 1934
Tower Height:  27 feet

9-sided pyramidal cast iron skeletal tower, partially enclosed under the lantern, mounted on top of Fort Winfield Scott. Tower painted white, lantern black.
The present, diminutive Fort Point Lighthouse is actually the third to stand at the point. Construction of the original lighthouse and its twin on Alcatraz Island, just inside the bay, began in 1852. The Fort Point Lighthouse was completed in 1853.  Just three months after it was completed, the Fort Point Light was razed. The Army had decided that the strategic point was needed for the construction of a fort.

Construction on the fort began in 1854, when workers blasted the 90-foot cliff down to a mere fifteen feet.  The three-story fort, constructed of red-brick and granite, took seven years to build and was the only such fort on the West Coast.  The second lighthouse at Fort Point, a squat wooden tower with four sides that sloped up to a square watch room, was built on the narrow ledge between the fort and the water.

The wooden tower was replaced with Fort Point’s third and final lighthouse, a small iron skeleton tower positioned atop the fort. A circular staircase leads up into the nine-sided white tower, which is capped by a black lantern room.  Work on the Golden Gate Bridge began in 1933, and the Fort Point Lighthouse was soon obscured by its new neighbor. A fog signal and navigational light were placed at the base of the bridge’s south tower, and on September 1, 1934, the Fort Point Lighthouse ceased operation.
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       © 2011 - Chris J LeBlanc  Photographer
Point Bonita Lighthouse
San Francisco, California

Location: Located in the Marin Headlands, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Latitude: N 37.8155
Longitude:  W 122.5297

Year Constructed: 1877 (station established 1855). Active
Tower Height: 33 feet    Focal Plane: 140 feet

Hexagonal lantern mounted atop brick fog signal building. The original 2nd order Fresnel lens is still in use. Building painted white, lantern black.
In the 1850s, as lighthouses started popping up along the West Coast, mariners cried for a light to mark the entrance of the Golden Gate whose recalcitrant currents, dangerous shoals, and incessant clinging fog had strangled the journey of many a vessel.
The original lighthouse was a 56-foot, conical brick tower, situated 260 feet above the sea. A one-and-a-half-story brick and stone cottage was built near the tower, and the first keeper, Edward Colson, lit the lamp inside the lighthouse’s 2nd-order Fresnel lens for the first time on May 2, 1855.  Quite often, the lighthouse was shrouded in fog, rendering it useless to seamen. By the 1870s, it was clear that the fog signal and lighthouse should be relocated to the southwestern tip of Point Bonita, where they would be at a lower elevation and better able to serve mariners.

The new lighthouse went into operation on February 2, 1877. Everything from the lower balcony up is from the original 1855 tower, including the Fresnel lens and eagle-shaped rainspouts. At 124 feet above sea level, the new tower was 200 feet lower than its predecessor.

Point Bonita was the last manned lighthouse on the California coast. The last keeper, who by that time was living in Coast Guard housing constructed at the former life-saving station, left in April 1981. Point Bonita Lighthouse is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is run by the National Park Service.