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 Point Hueneme, CA    
A hike of some distance required.Lighthouse open for climbing.Interior open or museum on site.
Description: Hueneme (pronounced “why-NEE-mee”) is derived from a Chumash Indian word meaning “half-way” or “resting place.” It is believed that Indians stopped at Point Hueneme as they transited between today's Point Mugu and the mouth of the Santa Clara River. Point Hueneme and Anacapa Island, located twelve miles offshore from the point, define the southern entrance to the Santa Barbara Channel. A sum of $22,000 was allocated by Congress on March 3, 1873 for a lighthouse to mark Point Hueneme. Remote Anacapa Island would have to wait until 1912 to receive its first light.

Original Point Hueneme Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The firm of Salisbury and Co. was awarded the contract for the Point Hueneme Lighthouse, and work began on April 25, 1874. The lighthouse consisted of a two-story residence, with a square tower extending an additional story above the dwelling’s pitched roof. The lighthouse was built in what has been described as a craftsman style with a Swiss and Elizabethan influence. The residence had ten rooms served by four fireplaces. The head keeper and his family occupied the first floor, while the second story belonged to the assistant keeper.

The first entry in the station’s log book reads “November 9, 1874. I, Samuel Ensign, having been promoted from 1st Assistant Keeper at the light at Pigeon Point, San Mateo County, California, and appointed principal keeper of this station have this day taken charge of Point Hueneme Light Station.” The assistant keeper, Mr. Giles, arrived shortly thereafter from San Francisco with his family having taken passage on the steamer Constantine. With the help of a lampist, the keepers prepared the lighthouse for its inaugural lighting on December 15, 1874, which interestingly was the same day a nearly identical lighthouse commenced operation at Point Fermin, south of Los Angeles.

On February 11, 1875, Keeper Ensign made the following entry in his log: “Entered the watch room at 6 a.m. to relieve Mr. Giles who had to go today as witness in a criminal case to San Buenaventura. Found Mr. Giles asleep in watch room and light unattended. Light very low.” On another day, Ensign again discovered Giles asleep in the watch room, but these failings didn’t prevent Giles from receiving the position of principal keeper of Pigeon Point in August of 1875. It would be Ensign who would be fired from the service in August of 1878 for “physical incapacity to discharge the duties of Station Keeper.”

In regards to Point Hueneme, the 1882 Report of the Lighthouse Board to Congress noted, “It is important that a steam fog signal should be established here. The numerous passenger and other steamers, in going up and down the coast, pass inside Anacapa Island, and very near the coast, which here makes a considerable elbow. The land at this point is quite low, and is so for ten miles inland, so that it is difficult to see if there is any fog.” A request for $7,000 was approved, and Point Hueneme soon received a fog signal.

Fresnel lens in Point Hueneme Lighthouse
The signature of the light changed over the years. For its first fourteen years of operation, a steady white light shone from the tower. In 1889, the light became fixed red. Three years after that, the light was changed to occulting white. In 1899, the tower received a new revolving fourth-order Fresnel lens, which produced a flashing white characteristic.

Henry Rosendale was serving as keeper during World War I, when employees of the Lighthouse Service were encouraged to plant gardens, purchase liberty bonds, and be frugal to assist with the ward effort. A Lighthouse Service Bulletin in 1918 carried the following war-time counsel. "This war is more than a conflict between armies; it is a contest in which every man, and child can and should render real assistance. Thrift and economy are not only a patriotic privilege, they are a duty."

To do his part, Keeper Rosendale donated forty-six pounds of Angora goat wool to the Red Cross along with the prized billy goat itself, which was raffled and sold for twenty-five dollars.

A natural canyon with a depth of thirty feet lies just off Point Hueneme, and in 1872, a 1500-foot wharf was constructed at the point so goods could be lightered from the coast to ships anchored offshore. The agricultural output of Ventura County increased in the early 1900s, and two giant Sunkist lemon-packing plants were constructed in 1922. Richard Bard, son of a U.S. Senator, spearheaded an effort to bring a deep-sea commercial port to Point Hueneme to broaden the market for the county’s products.

Bonds for the amount of $1,750,000 were issued to fund the project. In less than fifteen minutes after the sale opened on May 5th 1938, the bond issue was fully subscribed. On January 24, 1939, Standard Dredging Company began work on the harbor. Richard Bard, who would become known as the ‘Father of Port Hueneme’ was tasked with turning the first shovel of dirt at the ‘official’ groundbreaking ceremonies which weren't held until February 4th. As the entrance to the harbor would be dangerously close to the Point Hueneme Lighthouse, a new combination fog signal/lighthouse was constructed on the east side of the harbor’s entrance.

The lantern, lens, and clockworks mechanism were removed from the old lighthouse and mounted on a temporary tower while the new structure was under construction. The old lighthouse was barged from its position on the west side of the harbor’s entrance to the east bank, a move which attracted much local attention and took place between February 15th and 18th of 1940. Work on Port Hueneme, which was now the only deep water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco, was officially completed by July 4, 1940, and a two-day dedication was held over the weekend of July 6th & 7th 1940.

Point Hueneme Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
On December 7th, 1941, plans for Port Hueneme were abruptly changed, as control of the port was transferred to the Navy. The port would handle more dry cargo during World War II than any other U.S. port. When peace returned to the Pacific, the port was returned to civilian operations. In 1996, the port led the nation in citrus exports. As for imports, large cargo ships off-load a nearly-constant stream of foreign automobiles.

The historic Point Hueneme Lighthouse was sold at auction in October 1939 with the stipulation that the new owner had to relocate the structure as soon as possible. The lighthouse was purchased for use as the Hueneme Yacht Club, but after years of neglect, it was eventually torn down. The new lighthouse, now interchangeably called the Point Hueneme or Port Hueneme Lighthouse, consists of a 48-foot-tall, square, concrete tower rising from a one-story fog signal building. Built in an art moderne style, the structure was completed in 1941. Two dwellings formerly used by the Coast Guard are located adjacent to the lighthouse.

The 1899 fourth-order Fresnel lens used in the original tower continued its countless revolutions atop the new concrete lighthouse until the Ventura County Cultural Heritage Board voted 5-0 to retire the lens from active service. In making their decision in November, 2012, the board, which is contracted by the City of Port Hueneme to serve as a review panel for historical decisions, cited a guideline in the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act that states, “active use of the Fresnel lenses is not conducive to long-term preservation.” The lens will be placed on display on a lower floor of the lighthouse, where it will be easier for the public to view.

Head Keepers: Samuel Ensign (1874 – 1878), John A. F. McFarland (1878 – 1882), E. H. Pinney (1882), Jesse K. Glasby (1882 – 1894), Charles F. Allen (1894 – at least 1912), Henry Rosendale (at least 1915 – at least 1921), Walter White (1927 – 1948), Leo Kellogg (1948 – 1952), George Ward (1952 - ).

References

  1. "Point Hueneme Lighthouse," Thomas M. Ward, The Keeper's Log, Fall 1992.
  2. "Stormy Harbors, A Retrospect of Ventura County's Three Harbors and Their Problems Over the Years," Dave Crowell, Reporter, August 1998.
  3. Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993.
  4. "Century-old Port Hueneme Lighthouse lens is set to be retired," Arlene Martinez, vcstar.com, November 26, 2012.

Location: Located on the south side of the entrance to Port Hueneme at 120 W. Port Hueneme Road.
Latitude: 34.1452
Longitude: -119.21

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


Travel Instructions: From Highway 101 north of Los Angeles, take Highway 1 south towards Oxnard and Port Hueneme. After roughly 3 miles, exit onto Saviers Road (Highway 34) and drive south for 2.9 miles to its end. Turn right onto Hueneme Road, go one mile and then turn left onto Ventura Road. When Ventura Road ends after 0.3 miles, turn right onto Surfside Drive. Park along the street near the Flag Plaza and follow the Lighthouse Promenade north on foot about 1/2 mile, where you can view the lighthouse behind a fence.

Since July of 2002, the Coast Guard has hosted a free open house at Point Hueneme Lighthouse on the 3rd Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from February through October. During this time, visitors can walk 0.5 miles to the lighthouse using the Lighthouse Promenade and gain access to the lighthouse. For recorded tour information, call (310) 541-0334.

The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Grounds/tower open during tours.

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