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The 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 was later replaced by a 40 pound modern rotating light that incorporates the Fresnel principles for the efficient projection of light. This was replaced in 2015 by an 8 tier VLB-44 LED array . In addition, a 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 21.5 nautical miles, the rotating light could be seen for 19 nautical miles and the current VLB-44 is visible from up to 14 nautical miles.
Our three bedroom, two bath Assistant Keeper’s homes sleep six, and include a wood burning fireplace in the living room, fully stocked kitchen, dining room, satellite television, CD/DVD player, free Wi-Fi, gas or electric fireplace in the master bedroom, back patio with picnic table and incredible views of the California coast from every room.
Our rentals include unlimited Lighthouse Museum & Tower tours and full access to our 23 acres of grounds for all guests during their stay. You will also find a welcome gift of a bottle of Husch Vineyards wine and chocolates from Mendocino Chocolate Company waiting for you in the dining room.
For more information on Mendocino lighthouses.