|Battery Point (Crescent City), CA|
Description: In 1855, the ship America burned in the harbor at Crescent City. Three cannons were salvaged from the wreckage and mounted nearby on the point at the northern side of the harbor's entrance. The cannons, which were often fired during Fourth of July celebrations, resulted in the point being named Battery Point. Although the cannons have since disappeared, the name remains affixed to the point.
The first official keeper, Theophilis Magruder, arrived at the lighthouse fifteen days after it was first lit. A temporary keeper had been employed until Magruder could arrive. Magruder's starting salary was $1,000 per year. He subsequently received a 40% pay cut, which prompted his resignation.
In 1875, the Lighthouse Board reported that the lighthouse "was in a dilapidated condition…the light itself is of little consequence." With Saint George Reef lying roughly six miles northwest of the harbor, mariners felt that approaching the harbor at night was too risky and typically remained well at sea. A light was eventually established on St. George Reef, but mariners discovered that the harbor light was still required for safe nighttime navigation.
John Jeffrey became keeper of the light in 1875, during the time when the lighthouse's future was uncertain. Jeffrey and his wife Nellie served for nearly forty years at the station, and for part of that time, Nellie was employed as the first assistant keeper. They raised four children at the station, and the life must have been somewhat agreeable as their son also entered into the lighthouse service, taking an assignment at the Oakland Harbor Lighthouse.
The Crescent City Lighthouse was automated in 1953, and a modern 375mm lens replaced the fourth-order Fresnel lens. After automation, the Del Norte Historical Society leased the lighthouse, and the lighthouse eventually became home to a museum and curators.
With its exposed location atop a rocky mound, the lighthouse was often battered by storms. Waves would wash over the islet and strike the lighthouse. One rogue wave broke three panes of glass in the lantern room and deposited water in the tower. Remarkably, the lighthouse received no damage when Crescent City received the worst tsunami damage ever suffered along the west coast of the lower forty-eight states. On March 27, 1964, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in the northern hemisphere with a moment magnitude of 9.2 struck Alaska near Prince William Sound. A series of waves generated by the earthquake raced south at a speed of nearly 600 mph and reached Crescent City around midnight with crests of up to twenty feet.
The water withdrew as if someone had pulled the plug. It receded a distance of three-quarters of a mile from the shore. We were looking down, as though from a high mountain, into a black abyss. It was a mystical labyrinth of caves, canyons, basins, and pits, undreamed of in the wildest of fantasies.
Eleven people in Crescent City were killed by the tsunami. Twenty-one boats were destroyed in the harbor, and ninety-one homes in town were damaged. The total cost of all the destruction was in excess of seven million dollars.
The lighthouse survived the ordeal intact, but the following year, the modern beacon that replaced the Fresnel lens in the tower was switched off, and a flashing light at the end of the nearby breakwater served as the harbor's navigational aid. On December 10, 1982, the light in the lighthouse tower was lit again, and the Battery Point Lighthouse was listed as a private aid to navigation.
Today caretakers live in the lighthouse and conduct tours of the premises. The fourth-order Fresnel lens used in the lighthouse is on display along with historic photos and other lighthouse memorabilia.
Head Keepers: Theophilus Magruder (1857 – 1859), Dugald Stewart Sartwell (1859 – 1860), Charles Edwards (1860 – 1862), George Washington Emery (1862 – 1866), John Henessy (1866 – 1875), John H. Jeffrey (1875 – 1914), Charles Bruehl (1914 - 1916) John E. Lind (1916 - 1930), John Otto Becker (1930 - 1933), Cheney V. Dunbar (1933 - 1936), Joseph Marhoffer (1936 - 1939), James Elmer Simonson (1939 - 1942), Fred Carl Saunders (1942 - 1945), John Hollenbeck (1945 - 1946), Wayne Redrick Piland (1946 – 1953).
The lighthouse is located on a small island just outside Crescent City's Harbor. The lighthouse is owned by Del Norte County. Grounds open, dwelling/tower open in season.
The lighthouse is owned by Del Norte County. Grounds open, dwelling/tower open in season.
Notes from a friend:Kraig writes:
While in town, you can check out a couple of reminders of the devastating 1964 tsunami. First, between H and K Streets along what was Second Street you will find a memorial plaque at Tsunami Landing listing the names of the eleven people who lost their lives. Along Front Street, you can see a giant tetrapod, over a thousand of which make up the outer breakwater at Crescent City. This tetrapod, which weighs 25 tons, was moved almost three feet by the tsunami.Marilyn writes:
Definitely worth a day time and sunset picture. Be careful to watch the tide coming back in at the end of the day or you may be spending the night outside of the lighthouse.
See our List of Lighthouses in California
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, Russell Barber, used by permission.