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 Point Pinos, CA    
Lighthouse accessible by car and a short, easy walk.Interior open or museum on site.Fee charged.Active Fresnel Lens
Description: While on an expedition in 1602 for the Count of Monterrey, Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino named the point at the southern entrance to Monterey Bay Punta de los Pinos, Point of the Pines, a fitting name for the tip of the Monterey Peninsula with its covering of Monterey Pines.
Point Pinos Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy Coast Guard Museum Northwest

The Point Pinos Lighthouse, constructed under the guidance of Francis Kelly and Francis Gibbons, was included in the first batch of eight lighthouses erected on the west coast. The lighthouse commenced operation on February 1, 1855, and following the removal of the original Alcatraz Lighthouse in 1909, it became the oldest active lighthouse on the west coast. A second-order lens was ordered for the tower but when it took too long to arrive, the third-order Fresnel lens intended for the Fort Point Lighthouse was used instead. This third-order lens is still used in the tower today.

In late September of 1855, Major Hartman Bache sailed past the lighthouse both during the day and at night and issued the following report on the lighthouse. "I regret to say the result of this cursory examination was entirely unfavorable to the point now occupied. It answers neither the condition of a coast light or a harbor light as fully as it might....The light is soon lost of in approaching Monterey, due in great measure to the interposition of trees, the light having been built just at the edge of, if not within, the woods. Whenever I have the means, by a proper survey, of determining the space from which the trees should be cut to give full effect to the light throughout the entire arc of visibility called for by the position and elevation, I will have them removed."

Two of the more noted lighthouse keepers at Point Pinos were women. Charles and Charlotte Layton moved to the lighthouse with their four children as the first occupants of the building. While riding with a posse in pursuit of the bandit Anastacio Garcia, keeper Charles was shot and later died from his wound, leaving his wife in charge of the light. In 1860, Charlotte married assistant keeper George Harris, and the two then swapped positions.

Emily Fish, accompanied by a Chinese servant Que, became the keeper of the Point Pinos Lighthouse in 1893 at the age of fifty. When sixteen, Emily had traveled to China to visit her sister and brother-in-law. During the overseas sojourn, Emily's sister died while giving birth to a baby girl, Juliet. Emily married her brother-in-law and raised Juliet. Later in life, after returning to the states, it was Juliet's husband who, while serving as a lighthouse inspector, notified Emily of the opening at Point Pinos. Emily, whose husband had passed away before her appointment, was known as a meticulous keeper and as a congenial host to numerous guests who visited her at the light. Her fondness for entertaining led to her being called the Socialite Keeper.

Eclipser used in Point Pinos Lighthouse
In 1880, a closed porch was added to the east side of the lighthouse to serve as a storehouse and to protect the entrance to the kitchen of the dwelling. Water for the inhabitants of the lighthouse was obtained by capturing the rainfall from the roof and storing it in a 10,000-gallon cistern. In dry years, the supply was often inadequate and had to be supplemented by water hauled in at a considerable expense. In 1885, a pipe system, nearly a mile in length, was run from the lighthouse to tap into the Pacific Improvement Company's water supply.

On April 18, 1906, during Emily Fish's tenure, an earthquake shook the Point Pinos Lighthouse. The station's logbook for that date records, "At 5:13 AM violent violent and continued earthquake shocks jarred the lens causing it to bend the connecting tube and loosened the lens so it was movable - also enlarged the crack in the trim and coping. The jarring of the dampers caused the flame to run up." The brick tower suffered extensive damage and was soon torn down and replaced by a reinforced concrete tower. It took two days before news of the devastating destruction in San Francisco, which was closer to the epicenter, reached the lighthouse.

The lighthouse was automated in 1975 and licensed to the City of Pacific Grove, which opened the lighthouse through its Pacific Grove Natural History Museum. The Adobe Chapter of the Questers was very helpful in restoring the lighthouse and furnishing it with period pieces. The homey environment makes it easy to picture Emily Fish hosting a graceful evening at the lighthouse for her guests, which included artists, writers and naval officers.

Asphalt floor tiles have been removed and the original Douglas fir floors have been refinished. In 1998, the original eclipser, a metal panel that for several years revolved around the light source producing a twenty seconds on, ten seconds off signature, was restored and placed on exhibit in the basement of the lighthouse.

The Point Pinos Lighthouse and nearly seventy acres of surrounding land were transferred from the Coast Guard to the city of Pacific Grove in August 2006. The Coast Guard will keep two housing units on the property for key personnel and maintain responsibility for the beacon itself.

Head Keepers: Charles Layton (1854 1855), Charlotte A. Layton (1855 1860), George C. Harris (1860 1861), Frank F. Porter (1861 1863), Andrew Wasson (1863 1871), Allen L. Luce (1871 1893), Emily A. Fish (1893 1914), John Jeffrey (1914 - 1919), Richard H. Williams (1919 - 1931), Peter C. Nelson (1931 1938), Thomas Henderson (1938 1955), William F. Wilkinson (1955 1957), Truman Cook (1957 1960).

Photo Gallery: 1 2 3

References

  1. Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993.
  2. Lighthouses of the Pacific, Jim Gibbs, 1986.
  3. The Keeper's Log, Fall 1998.
  4. The Keeper's Log, Summer 1997.

Location: Located on the northernmost tip of the Monterey Peninsula at the western edge of Pacific Grove.
Latitude: 36.6334
Longitude: -121.9337

For a larger map of Point Pinos Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: From Highway 1 in Monterey/Pacific Grove, take the Pebble Beach/Pacific Grove Exit (Highway 68 West). Highway 68 is also known as Holman Highway for the first 2.2 miles, when it becomes Forest Avenue. Stay on Forest avenue for another 1.7 miles, and then turn left onto Lighthouse Avenue. After 1.1 miles, turn right onto Asilmoar Boulevard, from which you can access the lighthouse. The Point Pinos Lighthouse is located in the middle of the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links. Alternatively, from Cannery Row in Monterey, follow Lighthouse Avenue west to the intersection with Asilomar Boulevard.

The lighthouse houses a museum owned and run by the City of Pacific Grove and is open from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Thursday through Monday. For more information regarding the lighthouse, call (831) 648-3176.

The lighthouse is owned by the City of Pacific Grove.

Find the closest hotels to Point Pinos Lighthouse

Notes from a friend:

Kraig writes:
If you are into golf as well as lighthouses, you might want to schedule a tee time at the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course. The lighthouse is located on an island of land surrounded by the back nine. While in the area, be sure and take in a drive along the beautiful Monterey Coast, including the famous Seventeen Mile Drive.
Marilyn writes:
The Monterey coast is like no other in California, and this lighthouse has a commanding view of some of the most beautiful real estate on God's green earth.

See our List of Lighthouses in California

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Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.