|Santa Barbara, CA|
Description: The site for the Santa Barbara Lighthouse was selected so that the light could serve the dual purpose of a sea coast light and a harbor light. In early 1856, George Nagle of San Francisco arrived in Santa Barbara with his family to build the lighthouse on a mesa roughly two miles west of the harbor. Similar in design to most of the early west coast lighthouses, the Santa Barbara Lighthouse was of the Cape Cod style, with the tower projecting from the middle of the gabled roof. Nagle, who received $8,000 for his work, used Indian labor and mostly local material to finish the lighthouse within the year. On December 1, 1856, a fixed red light was displayed from a fourth-order Fresnel lens.
The first keeper at the station was Albert Williams. After four years, he was removed from the office of keeper and tried his had at farming nearby. After a string of three, short-term keepers, the position was again offered to Williams in 1865. He declined, but his wife Julia accepted. Since the station did not have a fog signal, Julia was able to maintain the light by herself, while raising three boys and two girls.
Julia Williams tended the light for more than forty years, and during that time the only two nights she was absent from the lighthouse were when she attended the weddings of two of her sons. As the water supply at the station was often insufficient, Julia would frequently take the station's horse to the nearest stream to fetch water. Once there, Julia would give her children a bath if needed and then fill up two wooden buckets with water. More than once, the mare threw off the heavy buckets, but Julia would patiently refill them and give the horse a lump or two of sugar to calm her down.
In 1893, a fifty-foot-deep well was dug near the lighthouse to augment the water supply. The following year an iron windmill was erected over the well to feed water into a 5,000-gallon cistern that sat atop a substantial foundation and was connected to the dwelling and grounds by pipes.
In 1905, Julia fell and broke her hip. Thinking it was only a minor injury, she continued to work for a few days, but soon had to be hospitalized. The fall brought an end to her lightkeeping career at the age of 81.
The following recommendation was first contained in the Lighthouse Board's annual report for 1894, and then regularly repeated until 1904. "The light-house at this station was built in 1856. It is of brick, with the outer wall stuccoed. The light is shown from an old-fashioned lantern, with triangular-shaped glass, built on top of the dwelling. The structure is unsightly and uncomfortable, and in winter the walls are damp. To put this building in good repair would cost as much, if not more, than to build a new modern structure. This can be done, it is estimated, for not exceeding $7,500, and it is recommended that an appropriation of that amount be made therefor."
As Congress failed to provide funding, it wasn't a new lighthouse but rather Mother Nature that did in the old structure. On June 29, 1925, a severe earthquake shook Santa Barbara. It seems that most earthquakes strike in the early morning, and this one did too, hitting at 6:45 a.m. The acting keeper, son of the late Keeper Harley A. Weeks, was thrown from his makeshift bed in a storage building, where he had been forced to spend the night due to the large number of relatives that had spent the night after a gathering the previous evening. Concerned for his family's safety, Weeks ran to the lighthouse and ushered everyone outside. Just moments later, the tower and lantern came crashing down, followed soon by the walls of the small dwelling. The Fresnel lens was shattered, and the structure was a total loss, but everyone "escaped injury other than serious fright and slight bruises."
A temporary acetylene light, exhibited from a frame tower, replaced the lighthouse on July 3rd and served until the more permanent automatic tower, seen at the station today, was put into service in 1935. The light used atop the tower at Santa Barbara from 1925 to 1977 is now on display at the Point Vicente Lighthouse.
Head Keepers: Albert J. Williams (1856 – 1860), Rafiel Guirado (1860), Charles Talma (1860 – 1861), S. R. J. Sturgeon (1861 – 1865), Julia F. Williams (1865 – 1905), Caroline Morse (1905 – 1911), George A. Hussey (1911 – at least 1912), Harley A. Weeks (1913 – at least 1924), Raymond H. Weeks (at least 1927 – at least 1940).
Located on the mesa in Santa Barbara. The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Grounds/tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Grounds/tower closed.
Notes from a friend:Kraig writes:
I spent four years in graduate school at the University of California at Santa Barbara, but never ran across this lighthouse during that time. I'm sure I must have driven by it numerous times, but it isn't exactly a lighthouse that attracts a lot of attention.
See our List of Lighthouses in California
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.