California: Scenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse
January 25, 2013 6 Comments
Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located along the scenic San Mateo coast south of San Francisco. The lighthouse was built in 1872, and is named after the clipper ship “Carrier Pigeon” that went down off the point. The ship even had a gilded pigeon as its figurehead. Pigeon Point’s original name was Whale Point, because whales are frequently seen offshore.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the tallest active lighthouses on the west coast (150 feet above sea level). Its Fresnel lens flashes a rotating beam of light once every 10 seconds. The lens has 1,008 glass prisms, and weighs over 4 tons!
Sometimes light stations use fog horns in addition to light signals to warn ships away from the coast. Early settlers around Pigeon Point Lighthouse described the fog horn as sounding like “an asthmatic old bovine” or “stuck hog”. The light station’s dock was used by rumrunners and bootleggers during Prohibition in the 1920’s. Tens of millions of dollars in whiskey were brought ashore during that period.
The lighthouse is currently undergoing an $11 million restoration. The first step (completed) was to remove the Fresnel lens from the tower and put it on temporary display in the Fog Signal Building. The second step (underway) is to stabilize the tower. The future third step will be complete restoration of the tower, which will begin once funding is secured. Progress updates are available at: http://www.calparks.org/whatwedo/improving/pigeon-point/