Every November people from near and far gather at Pigeon Point Light Station State Park to mark the anniversary of the first time—in 1872—its Fresnel Lens was lit to guide mariners. A technological marvel, even by today’s standards, the first order Fresnel Lens stands 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, and weighs 2,000 pounds. Though the lens is now on display in the adjacent Fog Signal Building, the lighthouse remains an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation.
After 143 years of weathering wind, salt water and other harsh elements, the lighthouse is closed for a major rehabilitation project led by CSPF. Phase One, an interim stabilization of the tower by removing the lens and sealing all cracks to prevent water intrusion, has been completed. Drawings for the remaining three phases (upper tower, lower tower, oil house) are pending approval and a series of events to kick off the restoration campaign are in the works.
The lens will not return to the upper tower until repairs are completed, but that didn’t stop the festivities enjoyed by over 1,000 attendees on Saturday. During the day, families took docent-led nature and history walks, children made their own lighthouses while sipping hot chocolate, musicians serenaded the crowds with songs about lighthouses, Beyond the Border food truck served up delicious meals, and everyone stopped by the Fog Signal Building for viewings of the magnificent lens and its prisms of light.
Shortly after sunset, an audience gathered for a slide show of the construction drawings by Architectural Resources Group (ARG) which were projected onto the lighthouse itself. Then a short video entitled “It’s A Long Way to Pigeon Point” (by docents Stuart Nafey and Peter Bohacek) described historic transportation modes used to reach the lighthouse, as well as marine mammals and birds that migrate past the area.
After the two showings, other images were projected onto the spectacular lighthouse screen—including a lava lamp which only audience members of a certain generation could identify. Using the lighthouse as the backdrop for these two viewings was quite a spectacle. The volunteers at Pigeon Point plan to do it again next year, so save the date of November 12, 2016.
Photos by James Zhang