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Point Arena Lighthouse on The Mendocio Coast CA

About The Point Arena Lighthouse & Museum


Photo Gallery

Video Gallery



he first Point Arena Lighthouse was constructed in 1870.  Its brick and mortar tower featured ornate iron balcony supports and a large Keeper residence with enough space to house several families.  In April of 1906, a devastating earthquake struck the tower.  Damage from the trembler occurred all along the San Andreas Fault, which runs very close to Point Arena.  In the town itself, many buildings were reduced to rubble, and at the Light Station, the Keeper's residence and Lighthouse were damaged so severely that they were rendered condemned, and ultimately torn down.

The United States Lighthouse Service contracted with a San Francisco based company to build a new lighthouse here to withstand any future earthquakes.  The company built factory smokestacks, which accounts for the final design for the new Point Arena Lighthouse.  The new design featured steel reinforcement rods encased in concrete, and was the first lighthouse to be built in this manner.

The new Lighthouse began operation in 1908, nearly 18 months after the quake.  It stands 115 feet tall, and features a 1st Order Fresnel Lens, over six feet in diameter and weighing more than six tons.  The lens is made up of 666 hand-ground glass prisms all focused toward three sets of double bulls eyes.  It is these bulls eyes that gave the Point Arena Lighthouse its unique "light signature" of two flashes every six seconds.  This incredible optic, that holds an appraised value of over $3.5 million, is set in solid brass framework, built in France.

Prior to the introduction of electricity, the lens was rotated by a clockwork mechanism.  The Keepers, or "wickies" as they were called, had to hand crank a 160 pound weight up the center shaft of the lighthouse every 75 minutes to keep the lens turning.  Light was produced by a "Funks" hydraulic oil lamp, that needed to be refueled every four hours, and whose wicks would have to be trimmed regularly.  Later, two 1,000 watt electric lamps were installed to replace the oil lamp, and a 1/8 horsepower electric motor was installed to replace the clockworks.

In 1978, the fog signal at the station was silenced, and a bell buoy was placed nearby.  June of 1977 brought the installation of an automated aircraft-type beacon on the balcony tower, and the historic 1st Order Fresnel Lens was discontinued.  The 400 pound aircraft beacon has recently been replaced by a 40 pound modern rotating light that incorporates the Fresnel principles for the efficient projection of light.  There is a battery powered emergency system installed  as a back-up in the event of a power failure.  In addition, a radio beacon, with a 50 mile signal that originates from the station, also assists mariners.  The original oil lamp was visible for approximately 18 miles, the 1st Order Fresnel Lens for 20 miles and the current modern rotating light can be seen for 16 miles.

In 1984, a nonprofit organization called the Point Arena Lighthouse Keepers acquired the light station as part of a 25 year land lease from the Coast Guard and the Department of Transportation.  In November of 2000, the nonprofit group became the official owners of the property due to their diligent historic preservation and educational efforts.  Daily visitation, gift store sales, memberships and the rental of the historic Keeper's homes on the property as vacation houses, all provide desperately needed income for ongoing preservation, facility upgrades and educational endeavors.

For more information on lighthouses around the world,
contact The United States Lighthouse Society,
located in San Francisco, California.

Original Point Arena Lighthouse and keeper's quarters, as they appeared in 1870, from the west.

Original Point Arena Lighthouse and keeper's quarters, as they appeared in 1870, from the east.

Light Station as it appeared just before the devistating 1906 earthquake.

Demolition of the original tower after the 1906 earthquake.  The Fog Signal Building, at center, survived the shake and the lantern housing, at left, was placed on a temporary platform during reconstruction, being used continuously as a navigational aid.

Newly completed Point Arena Light Station tower, November 30th, 1907.

Point Arena Light Station, as it appeared in 1910.  Note the two story keeper homes at right that were upgraded by U.S. Coast Guard in the 1950s.

Photo Gallery

Point Arena
Lighthouse and Museum

Museum and
"punchbowl" behind

Lighthouse tower

The four keepers houses

The sea on either side
of the keeper houses

The lighthouse lantern
in a stormy sky

A panoramic view of the
Point Arena Lighthouse

Looking north to the
Manchester Beach dunes

The lens room from below

The inside of the 2-ton
crystal & brass
First Order Fresnel lens

Sunset over the lighthouse

A beautiful shot of
the tower

Video Gallery
Click on image to play video - requires Quicktime player

The Point Arena
Lighthouse and Museum

Birds nesting on rocks

The Gazebo

The north shore

Coast Gaurd helicopter lifts off after refueling

Native seals napping in the surf

Some of the wildflowers that cover the hill

Inside the museum and gift store

The view from the top -
You can climb here too

Sunset off the
west shore

Our EIN# is  94-2841636