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Contact: John A. Dell'Osso, 415-464-5135
Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County – The National Park Service on August 6 will launch a $5 million restoration of the iconic, 148-year-old Point Reyes lighthouse. The thirty-five-foot-tall, sixteen-sided tower is home to the only brass clockwork mechanism and first-order Fresnel lens (with its 1,032 individually cast glass prisms) in their original place in the United States. The lighthouse also is known as one of the West Coast’s most spectacular whale watching spots. Although the Point Reyes lighthouse will be closed through April 2019, the Lighthouse Visitor Center and Observation Deck are planned to reopen on October 6.
“The lighthouse is showing its age,” said Cicely Muldoon, park superintendent. “This much needed investment tackles long-deferred maintenance in the park’s most well-loved and irreplaceable structure. Visitors will love it. We can’t wait to get started.”
The renovation is funded by a program that directs national parks visitor use fees to deferred maintenance and projects that provide a direct visitor benefit, the Federal Lands Recreation & Enhancement Act.
Perched on the rugged tip of the typically fog-shrouded, wind-battered Point Reyes peninsula, the lighthouse and supporting infrastructure have not been comprehensively rehabilitated since the beacon for mariners was commissioned in 1870. Extensive repairs will include stabilizing the structure, fixing water and rust damage, repaving the access road , improving visitor accessibility with paths, an observation deck and visitor center. Plus, workers will restore the original Fresnel lens and clockwork mechanism. The park is pursuing more funding to install new universally accessible exhibits.
Restoration work is scheduled to be completed by April 2019.
Nearly 400,000, or about 16% of Point Reyes National Seashore’s 2.5 million annual visitors make it to the lighthouse. It is the park’s most-visited site.
The lighthouse will close to the public when work begins on August 6 and will remain closed until the project’s first phase (asphalt removal, installation of new concrete walkways and other repairs) is complete on or about October 6. The lighthouse parking lot will remain open but there will be no access beyond that point. The park will reopen the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center at Drakes Beach on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through September.
During phase two, workers will remove, restore and replace the 1,032 crystal pieces that make up the Fresnel lens, and they will rehabilitate the original clockwork mechanism too. The public will have the chance to watch this restoration work in progress through time lapse photography posted on the Seashore’s website and social media platforms (see links below).
The final phase includes replacing both indoor and outdoor exhibit panels with such universally accessible exhibits as tactile models and digital flipbooks.
The Point Reyes peninsula, which juts nearly ten miles into the Pacific Ocean, has long been a deadly hazard to mariners. Dense fog and gale-force winds plague the point year-round. Over the centuries, everything from Spanish galleons to lumber schooners and oil tankers have hit the rocks and sunk or washed ashore. Hundreds of sailors have died there. As sea traffic increased during the California Gold Rush, the point’s dangers prompted shipping interests to pressure the federal government to build the Point Reyes Lighthouse, which began its service December 1, 1870.
Although decommissioned from active service in 1975, the lighthouse features the last functionally intact light of its kind on the West Coast.
Additional Resources and Links:
Point Reyes Lighthouse History https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/historyculture/people_maritime_lighthouse.htm
Last updated: May 5, 2020