Digest>Archives> March 2005

Point Reyes Lens Gets a Needed Tune-up

By Jeremy D'Entremont


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Point Reyes Lighthouse is reached by walking a ...
Photo by: Sue and Ed Maciej

Since 1870, Point Reyes Lighthouse has stood vigilant watch at a windy perch over 200 feet above the Pacific Ocean on the northern California coast. The active light was transferred to the roof of a nearby building in 1975, but the original first order lens remains intact inside the lighthouse along with its original rotating mechanism.

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“The Lens Consultant” at work on Point Reyes' ...

The massive lens, manufactured by Barbier and Fenestre in Paris in 1867, consists of 1,032 prisms and stands almost eight feet tall. Thanks to the Point Reyes National Seashore and consultant Jim Woodward, the lens had a much-needed refurbishing this past December.

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“The Lens Consultant” at work on Point Reyes' ...

After 134 years in a cruel environment, the glazing holding the prisms to the frames in the lens had begun to crack and the prisms had loosened. Woodward, one of the nation's leading lens experts, spent two weeks at the lighthouse with Steve Anastasia, the park ranger at Point Reyes. The two men reglazed the weakened prisms. Woodward says the project went very well, adding, “This will hold it together for a few more years until the bigger project comes along.”

It's hoped that a complete rehabilitation of the lens, which will require it to be totally dismantled and put back together, can be accomplished within a few years. When the restoration project eventually goes forward, it will require the services of four lampists and will take approximately six weeks to accomplish. That will require significant federal funding, much more than the $20,000 spent on the recent refurbishing.

Point Reyes Light Station is open to the public, weather permitting, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday through Monday. A strenuous walk down 308 steps is necessary to reach the lighthouse itself, and the stairway is often closed due to the high winds that frequently buffet the site. A visitor center at the top of the cliff includes photos of shipwrecks and the station's keepers.

Visiting this lighthouse can be exhausting, but it might help to remember that the keepers here sometimes had to crawl on their hands and knees down the stairs to avoid being blown into the sea – all in a day's work.

You can read lots more about the lighthouse at the Point Reyes National Seashore web site at www.nps.gov/pore/home.htm. To contact Jim Woodward about lens restoration, you can call him at (216) 961-6114, email him at jim@lighthouseconsultant.com or write “The Lighthouse Consultant,” 1892 West 44th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113. You can also visit his web site at www.lighthouseconsultant.com.

This story appeared in the March 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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