In 1868 the U.S. Lighthouse Service built an amazing lighthouse station on the edge of a cliff at Cape Mendocino, California. For years the lighthouse keepers kept the station in pristine condition and as the old saying goes, “They Kept A Good Light.”
When automation came to the light station, its powerful, and giant, first order Fresnel lens was removed from the tower in 1948. Shortly thereafter the lens was installed inside a replica of the lighthouse at the Humboldt County Fair Grounds, where it has remained on display for over 60 years.
In the 1970s the United States Coast Guard abandoned the light station, leaving it to deteriorate to the elements. When it appeared that the deteriorating lighthouse might slip over the cliff and be lost forever, the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse Preservation Society dismantled the tower and restored it for display in Shelter Cove, CA.
However, now after 60 years, the Coast Guard is questioning whether or not the old first order Fresnel lens on display at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds, is being properly cared for and they might even take it back. A Coast Guard spoke person said, “It doesn’t conform to our regulations and requirements for security and safety.” That comment seems to be somewhat of a double standard; considering the Coast Guard gave up the lens 60 years ago, abandoned the lighthouse in the 1970s, and burned the historic keeper’s house and other buildings to the ground.
The Coast Guard said it has not ruled out allowing the lens to remain on display at the fairgrounds. If so, it would require expensive changes, such as a new structure being built and proper security and fire protection. In is unclear what the Coast Guard would do with the lens and where it would go to if they take it back. Nor has the Coast Guard indicated where the money would come from to undertake the project or if they would provide any money to the fairground to finance the changes to keep the lens on display at that location.
This story appeared in the
August 2008 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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