Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Light Station or Pigeon Point Lighthouse is a lighthouse built in 1871 to guide ships on the Pacific coast of California. It is the tallest lighthouse (tied with Point Arena Light) on the West Coast of the United States. It is still an active Coast Guard aid to navigation. Pigeon Point Light Station is located on the coastal highway (State Route 1), 5 miles (8 km) south of Pescadero, California, between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. The 115-foot (35 m), white masonry tower, resembles the typical New England structure. Because of its location and ready access from the main highway, Pigeon Point entertains a large number of public visitors.

The lighthouse and the land around have been preserved as Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park, a California state park. The lighthouse is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places,[3] and designated as a California Historical Landmark.[4]

The Pigeon Point Lighthouse is also a logo of E. W. Scripps Company.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse (2016)
Pigeon Point Lighthouse in 2016
Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located in California
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
LocationPigeon Point
southern to San Francisco Bay
United States
Coordinates37°10′54.3″N 122°23′38.1″W / 37.181750°N 122.393917°WCoordinates: 37°10′54.3″N 122°23′38.1″W / 37.181750°N 122.393917°W
Year first constructed1871
Year first lit1872
Constructionbrick tower
Tower shapetapered cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern attached to workroom
Markings / patternwhite tower, black trim
Tower height115 ft (35 m)
Focal height148 ft (45 m)
Original lensFirst order Fresnel lens (1872)
Current lensDCB-24 aerobeacon
Range24 nmi (44 km; 28 mi)
CharacteristicFlashing white 10s, Emergency light of reduced intensity when main light is extinguished.
Admiralty numberG4006
ARLHS numberUSA-499
USCG number6-0320
Managing agentPigeon Point Lighthouse State Historic Park[1][2]
Reference no.77000337[3]
Reference no.930[4]


Vicinity of Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse and tide pools

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the most picturesque lighthouses on the Pacific coast. The tower stands on a rocky promontory and has long been a landmark for ships approaching San Francisco Bay from the south. This headland, and hence the lighthouse, took its name from the ship Carrier Pigeon that wrecked here in 1853.

The lantern room of the tower is no longer equipped with the original first-order, 1000-watt Fresnel lens.[5] No longer illuminated for demonstration purposes,[6] the lens has 24 flash panels, is composed of 1008 hand-polished lenses and prisms and is capable of producing over 500,000 candlepower illumination. It was manufactured by the Henry-LePaute company in Paris, France and was first lit at Pigeon Point at sunset on November 15, 1872.

Originally the tower was equipped with a lamp that burned refined lard oil (pig fat). In 1888, that lamp was replaced with a mineral oil (kerosene) lamp. To produce Pigeon Point's assigned characteristic of one white flash of light every ten seconds, the one (1) ton lens rotated one time every four minutes. When observed from a distance, this resulted in the appearance of one white flash of light every ten seconds. The lens rotation was originally powered by a clockworks and 45 pounds (20 kg) weight. In 1926 the lighthouse was provided with electricity. Modern innovations were incorporated and the kerosene IOV lamp was replaced by a 1000 watt bulb, the clockworks by an electric motor and an electrically operated fog signal was eventually installed. The lighthouse has been designated California Historical Landmark number 930. In 1972, the United States Coast Guard mounted a 24-inch (610 mm) aerobeacon on the front of the tower (now replaced by a smaller beacon) and officially retired the Fresnel lens from regular duty. The First order Fresnel lens is no longer lit to celebrate special occasions, such as the annual lighting of the lens, which usually occurred in mid-November (closest Saturday to November 15) the date of the original first lighting in 1872. The lens was removed from the top of the tower in November 2011, to now be displayed in the fog signal building, adjacent to the base of the lighthouse. The light outside the lens room, mounted on a small verandah at the top of the 100-foot (30 m) tower, rotating with six beams, is still an active aid to navigation. Updated information, garnered from the recent lens removal crew, has produced new numbers for the weight of the lens...long reported to be four tons. In actuality that figure was the complete shipping weight of the lens and its rotating clock works. The correct figures are as follows: lens weight, one (1) ton; the clock works, one (1) ton; and the seventy-eight (78) wooden shipping crates to contain such, two (2) tons; total, therefore, being the reported four tons.

The first order fresnel lens of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse originally came from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which has the same lens characteristic. Following the deactivation of the original tower in 1870, the lens, which had only been installed in 1863 was removed and put into storage. Shortly thereafter in 1871 it was shipped to the west coast to be installed in the new lighthouse. [7]

The tower has been closed to tours since December 2001 because of the collapse of brickwork supporting outside access metal walkways on the top of the structure. Cast iron was used rather than steel with the unfortunate result being that cast iron absorbs water rather than repelling it like steel, thus the walkways are severely rusted, as are the major binding ring bands at the base of the tower! The California State Park system has promised repairs, but it is estimated that even if funds were available, it would be seven to ten years before the repairs would be completed. In July, 2010, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) stated that of the $3.4 million she requested for her district through the Fiscal Year 2011 Interior and Environment Appropriations Act, $250,000 will be allocated to restore the upper portion of the lighthouse.[8]

The restored lighthouse keepers' housing has, since the mid-1960s, also served as a youth hostel for travelers. The hostel is operated by HI USA,[9] a non profit organization devoted to helping the young gain a greater understanding of the world and its people through hostelling. The four three-bedroom houses north of the lighthouse have overnight lodging for groups and individual travelers of all ages. Each house has male or female bunk rooms, as well as private room options. Hostel guests from all over the world share kitchens and living spaces set up to facilitate intercultural exchange. An outdoor hot tub can be rented in the evenings.

Aerial View of Pigeon Point lighthouse and surrounding coastline
Aerial View of Pigeon Point lighthouse and surrounding coastline

Image gallery


Pigeon Point, ca. 1870s, prior to construction


U.S. Coast Guard archive photo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse circa 1950

Taken circa 1950 when fully operational including the Fresnel lens and fog signal

Pigeon Point Light house

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with light on

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

On pacific coast in summer

Pigeon Point Lighthouse and wildflowers

Pigeon Point Lighthouse with wildflowers (view from the South)

Pigeon Point Light Station
Pigeon Point Light Station Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point Light Station: Inside View of the Fresnel Lens

Pigeon Point Light Station Stairs in the Tower

Pigeon Point Light Station Stairs in the Tower

Pigeon point hostel

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel

Pigeon Point Lighthouse at Blue hour by Sutanu Mandal

Pigeon Point Lighthouse at Blue hour by Sutanu Mandal

See also


  1. ^ [1] The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 12 June 2016
  2. ^ California Historic Light Station Information & Photography United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 12 June 2016
  3. ^ a b National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  4. ^ a b "Pigeon Point Lighthouse". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  5. ^ Santa Cruz Sentinel - Once majestic Pigeon Point Lighthouse - a legendary landmark - now in need of major restoration
  6. ^ Nemiroff, R.; Bonnell, J., eds. (26 November 2007). "Moon Over Pigeon Point Lighthouse". Astronomy Picture of the Day. NASA.
  7. ^ Duffus, Kevin (2003). The Lost Light: The Mystery of the Missing Cape Hatteras Fresnel Lens. Raleigh, NC: Looking Glass Productions. pp. 161–167. ISBN 1-888285-21-4.
  8. ^ Hmbreview.com
  9. ^ Hiusa.org

Further reading

  • California Department of Parks and Recreation (2002). Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park. Sacramento, CA: California State Parks. OCLC 56543458.
  • Perry, Frank (1986). The history of Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Soquel, CA: GBJ Pub. ISBN 978-0-943896-02-1.
  • Perry, Frank (Spring 1999). "Legacy of the Carrier Pigeon - A History of the Pigeon Point Light Station". The Keeper's Log. United States Lighthouse Society. XV (3).
  • Semones, JoAnn (2007). Shipwrecks, scalawags, and scavengers: the storied waters of Pigeon Point. Palo Alto, CA: Glencannon Press/Maritime Books. ISBN 978-1-889901-42-8.

External links

California Historical Landmarks in San Mateo County, California

List table of the properties and districts — listed on the California Historical Landmarks — within San Mateo County, California.

Note: Click the "Map of all coordinates" link to the right to view a Google map of all properties and districts with latitude and longitude coordinates in the table below.

California State Route 1

State Route 1 (SR 1) is a major north–south state highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of the U.S. state of California. At a total of just over 659 miles (1,061 km), it is the longest state route in California. SR 1 has several portions designated as either Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Cabrillo Highway, Shoreline Highway, or Coast Highway. Its southern terminus is at Interstate 5 (I-5) near Dana Point in Orange County and its northern terminus is at U.S. Route 101 (US 101) near Leggett in Mendocino County. SR 1 also at times runs concurrently with US 101, most notably through a 54-mile (87 km) stretch in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and across the Golden Gate Bridge.

The highway is designated as an All-American Road. In addition to providing a scenic route to numerous attractions along the coast, the route also serves as a major thoroughfare in the Greater Los Angeles Area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and several other coastal urban areas.

SR 1 was built piecemeal in various stages, with the first section opening in the Big Sur region in the 1930s. However, portions of the route had several names and numbers over the years as more segments opened. It was not until the 1964 state highway renumbering that the entire route was officially designated as SR 1. Although SR 1 is a popular route for its scenic beauty, frequent landslides and erosion along the coast have caused several segments to be either closed for lengthy periods for repairs, or re-routed inland.

Carrier Pigeon (ship)

Carrier Pigeon was an American clipper ship that was launched in the fall of 1852 from Bath, Maine. Her value was estimated at $54,000. She was wrecked on her maiden voyage off the north coast of Santa Cruz County, California (now San Mateo County).

En plein air

En plein air (French pronunciation: ​[ɑ̃ plɛn ɛːʁ], French for outdoors, or plein air painting) is the act of painting outdoors. This method contrasts with studio painting or academic rules that might create a predetermined look.

Greta Granstedt

Greta Granstedt (July 13, 1907 – October 7, 1987) was an American film and television actress.

List of shipwrecks in 1930

The list of shipwrecks in 1930 includes all ships sunk, foundered, grounded, or otherwise lost during 1930.

National Register of Historic Places listings in San Mateo County, California

This is a list of the National Register of Historic Places listings in San Mateo County, California.

This is intended to be a complete list of the properties and districts on the National Register of Historic Places in San Mateo County, California, United States. Latitude and longitude coordinates are provided for many National Register properties and districts; these locations may be seen together in an online map.There are 60 properties and districts listed on the National Register in the county, including 2 National Historic Landmarks. Another property was once listed but has been removed.

This National Park Service list is complete through NPS recent listings posted March 7, 2019.

Pigeon Point

Pigeon Point may refer to:

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, California

Pigeon Point, Minnesota

Pigeon Point, Tobago

The Pigeon Point neighborhood in Beaufort, South Carolina

The Pigeon Point neighborhood in Delridge, Seattle

Rancho Punta del Año Nuevo

Rancho Punta del Año Nuevo was a 17,753-acre (71.84 km2) Mexican land grant in present day San Mateo County, California given in 1842 by Governor Juan B. Alvarado to Simeon Castro. At the time, the grant was in Santa Cruz County; an 1868 boundary adjustment gave the land to San Mateo County. The grant extended along the Pacific coast from Rancho Butano and Arroyo de los Frijoles on the north, past Pigeon Point, Franklin Point to Point Año Nuevo on the south.

San Mateo County, California

San Mateo County ( SAN mə-TAY-oh), officially the County of San Mateo, is a county located in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 718,451. The county seat is Redwood City.San Mateo County is included in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is part of the San Francisco Bay Area, the nine counties bordering San Francisco Bay. It covers most of the San Francisco Peninsula. San Francisco International Airport is located at the northern end of the county, and Silicon Valley begins at the southern end. The county's built-up areas are mostly suburban with some areas being very urban, and are home to several corporate campuses.

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