|Punta de las Figuras (Point Figuras), PR|
Description: Construction of the Punta de las Figuras Lighthouse was begun by the Spanish in 1892 and finished in 1893 at a cost of 18,300 pesos. The fifth-order light, which was displayed at a height of forty-seven feet above high water and was visible from a distance of twelve miles, served to guide vessels into the ports of Arroyo and Patillas and connected the more powerful coastal lights at Point Tuna and Caja de Muertos.
The brick and stone dwelling measured roughly 58’ by 18’ and the main entrance led into the vestibule of a five-room apartment, with a room set aside for the engineer and the keeper’s assistant. A kitchen with a Spanish stove was located in the southeast corner of the dwelling, and a brick cistern and well located nearby provided the necessary water supply.
The lighthouse was not simply utilitarian as the top of the dwelling was wrapped in a decorative high relief frieze featuring a pattern of alternating rectangles and circles. The frieze-cornice arrangement is repeated, though on a smaller scale and without the high relief, atop the tower. Genoa marble slabs were used as flooring, and the ceiling featured firewood beams. A cast-iron spiral stairway led to the lantern room, where a fifth-order Fresnel lens by Barbier, Benard, & Cie. was mounted atop a cast-iron pedestal.
The light was relocated in 1938, and the Point Figuras Lighthouse was boarded up and abandoned. During World War II, the structure was once again occupied and used as a lookout. Some years after the war, the land surrounding the lighthouse was leased to the Army, who retained control of it until 1963. After the Army relinquished control, the lighthouse was repeatedly vandalized, and by 1978 all the doors, windows, and large sections of the interior walls and tiles were missing. The lens and lantern reportedly destroyed by vandals in 1969.
The dilapidated building stands surrounded by a swampy, marshy, stagnant, gray, sand shore. North of the lighthouse, dark green rolling hills and distant gray-blueish Central Mountain Range cliffs provide a rather surrealistic ambiance to a white painted structure built in a once malaria-infected area. The rectangular and proportioned neo-classic structure vibrates under a hot, deep sky and dramatically counter-balances the entangled, lush tropical vegetation.
Knowing its once dilapidated condition, one would be surprised to see the brightly painted and restored Point Figura Lighthouse today. In 2002-2003, the government beautifully rehabilitated the lighthouse at a cost of $2.3 million. A new black and white tile marble floor was installed, the Spanish stove was restored, and a new spiral staircase was put in place to provide access to the lantern room. The area just south of the lighthouse still features the original well and cistern. The Puerto Rico National Parks Company operates a beach resort called Punta Guilarte Arroyo adjacent to the lighthouse. The remains of a range light formerly used to guide ships into Arroyo Harbor can be found on the beach near the lighthouse.
Located on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, just southeast of Arroyo. The lighthouse is owned by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources. Grounds/tower open.
The lighthouse is owned by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources. Grounds/tower open.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.