Building Description Point Reyes Lighthouse, Point Reyes Station California

The Point Reyes Light Station is located at the extreme point of Point Reyes—a massive headland extending far out into the surrounding ocean. The light itself is located on a rocky exposed promontory 240' above the ocean. The power house and transformer building are also located at this level near the lighthouse tower. The remainder of the station's buildings and structures are located at the top of the point 300' above the lighthouse. Access is obtained from the top of the hill where pedestrians enter from the former lighthouse road. Parking facilities are provided outside the gate. The lighthouse tower and surrounding buildings may be approached by descending 300' of concrete stairs from the top of the point. All of the major components of the light station, and the greatest concentration of historic buildings, are located at this lower level. The tower contains the original 1st order Fresnel lens. Several original buildings of the station are no longer standing. The most significant of these were the 1871 fog-signal (located an impractical 430 feet below the station's operations at the top of the hill) and the 1870 Keeper's quarters, demolished to make room for the new quarters built in 1960. Significant structures no longer extant include the stairs and coal shute to the original fog-signal building, and the winch and car used to send supplies down to the lighthouse from the top of the point.

Located 294' above the water on a rocky promontory, the Point Reyes Light is a sixteen sided metal tower with three separate levels. The tower is approximately 20' in diameter at the base and is 35' high. It is surmounted by a glass lantern and a red-painted metal roof. Two external railed galleries encompass the building at the second and third levels. The first gallery on the second level is reached by a bridge and from this level, a metal ladder leads up to the second gallery at the third level. The tower is painted white, with the rails painted a deep green color. The galleries are painted black. The roof is painted red.

The tower is held in place by several heavy bolts set deep into a concrete foundation. The iron tower is riveted together. At the first level, the door, which is wooden and does not appear to be original, provides access into the interior. Two glazed windows set into the east and west facade of this level allow visual access into the interior of the structure. The interior walls are painted metal, being the metal plates which comprise the structure. The interior is bare with the exception of a wide metal column in the center which is bolted into the floor. This is a structural member to help support the 6,000 pound lens apparatus on the level above. A curving metal stairway leads up from this level, pierces the metal ceiling (which is the floor of the next level) and enters the second level, where the clockwork mechanism is installed. The second level is also entered by an external doorway. This door is metal and is original.

The lens is mounted on the third level. It is 8 feet 6 inches high. It was originally mounted on wheel-like bearings and revolved by a clockwork mechanism below in the second level. It cast a strong beam some 24 nautical miles out to sea. The lens, a masterpiece of engineering, was built in Paris in 1867 by the firm of Barbier and Fenestre. The lens at Point Reyes reflects light through 24 panels, each of which is hand cut and polished. The lens apparatus contains one thousand and thirty-two individual pieces of this hand cut glass mounted in a sturdy brass frame.

In 1939, when the lighthouse was taken over by the U.S. Coast Guard, the drive mechanism and light source were converted to electricity. The original weighted drive mechanism was disconnected but left in place and is still intact today and can be reconnected. The switchboxes and controls for the lamp and drive mechanism are mounted on the wall of the second level. Park Service personnel connect the lens for demonstration tours at least once a month.

The 1st order Fresnel lens is intact and in place although it does contain some cracks and chips. Other changes include a modern door on the first level and the installation of linoleum on the 2nd level floor, but these are relatively minor modifications to a largely intact lighthouse tower.

The power house (also known as the fog-signal building or the equipment building) is a 20' by 46' wood-frame structure situated directly at the foot of the 300' stairway leading to the light. It contained the machinery necessary to power the fog-signal and light. Double sliding doors on the east facade opened to receive a winch cart, which was used to carry supplies down the steep incline. The wooden double doors are hung from an overhead iron track, A side-hung single door is cut into one of the sliding doors to allow normal entry and exit. The exterior of the building has horizontal rustic wood siding, painted white with green trim. The pitch roof is red-painted asbestos shingle. There are seven freestanding double-hung wood sashed windows. Another side-hung door opens into the building at the west. This door was moved from south side of building. It enters into a small office, eight feet by 10 feet. This room was the watch room. The interior walls are vertical wood paneling, painted white. The ceiling is also whitepainted wood paneling. The floor is covered with vinyl tile squares. At the southeasterly corner of the room is a single restroom, presently without fixtures. In the northwest corner, a slender brick incinerator, 20 1/4 inches wide and eight feet six inches tall, is built into the wall. Also on the north wall is a small, built-in, secretary-style desk.

Opening off the office through a narrow doorway is the storeroom, or gear locker, 10 feet by 10 feet. A tool cabinet is built into the south wall. Along the west wall is a built-in storage cabinet with countertop, with two doors. The hardware is brass. A closet in the northeast corner was used for storing supplies. The wall, ceiling and floor treatment are the same as in the watch room. The cabinets are painted gray.

From each of these small rooms, doors open into the large generator room which is 19 feet by 34 feet. The open ceiling and walls are covered in tongue and groove panelling, probably redwood. Some machinery from the compressor system are still in place in this room.

The Transformer Building, built in 1934 is one-story, flat-roofed, rectangular building measuring 10' X 11'. This building is built entirely of concrete with an iron door. Its unadorned design reflects the utilitarian nature of its usage.

The Fuel and Paint Storage Building, built in 1900 is a one-story, wood-frame, peaked-roof, rectangular building measuring 6' X 8'. It is covered with horizontal wood siding and it has a wood shingle roof. Its unadorned design reflects the utilitarian nature of its usage.

The 1934 Pump House is a one-story, wood-frame, peaked-roof, rectangular building measuring 6' X 8'. It is covered with horizontal wood siding and it has a wood shingle roof. Its unadorned design reflects its utilitarian usage.

The 1900 Multi-Purpose Building is a single-story, wood-frame building with horizontal wood siding. It has a wood shingle hip roof and four freestanding windows. The interior has been altered with the addition of new walls, new ceiling, and flourescent lights. The building now houses the Lighthouse Visitor's Center.

The 18,000 square foot concrete watershed and 100,000 gallon brick and cement cistern are in very good condition. The cistern appears as a 50' diameter dome above ground. These were constructed in 1900. The remains of an older concrete watershed can be found east of the present garage. It contains 15,000 square feet of area and was built in 1874. A smaller concrete cistern of approximately 35,000 gallons lies in the rocks above the Visitor's Center. It was built in 1896 and is still in use.

The current Quarters building is a four unit two story wood frame apartment structure. It was built in 1960.

The Navigational Aids Building, maintained by the Coast Guard, contains currently-operating automated navigational aids (rotating beacon, electronic diaphone fog-signal, and radio beacon). It is located below the lighthouse and was built in 1975.

The original stairway to the lighthouse was a wooden structure with a sturdy iron rail. This stairway was apparently used until 1960, when it was removed and a new concrete stairway was installed by the U.S. Coast Guard. The new stairway follows the route of the original stairway, and winch car tracks were installed along both sides. A new handrail was also installed on the south side of the stairway. An aluminum handrail along the north side of the stairway was installed in 1977. Three small enclosures which are fenced with chain link, were installed with benches and permit rest stations for visitors to the lighthouse below. In some locations the stairway becomes a concrete ramp; this may have been a feature of the original wooden stairway. Metal conduit and junction boxes for the electrical wiring to the lighthouse and other structures below are attached to the aluminum railing that runs on the south side of the stairs. This was installed in 1966. The stairway measures 650 feet long by 4 feet wide.

Used to send supplies to the lighthouse below, the original winch and car was manually operated and was located at the top of the stairway. This location is the site of a new electrical winch which was most likely installed by the Coast Guard in 1966. The car and winch are no longer in use and the car has been removed. The winch apparatus, which is still operational, is located in a small plywood housing.