Summer Of 99--seeing The Light
Monterey's historical lighthouses shed light on the past.
Thursday, May 27, 1999
Of the 30 California lighthouses remaining, 10 are considered to be historically intact. And Monterey County boasts two: the Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove and the Point Sur Lightstation on the Big Sur coast.
On Feb. 1, 1855, using whale oil as fuel, the Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove first illuminated the water, guiding ships away from rocks on the craggy Monterey Bay coast.
The first keeper to attend the flame within the new lighthouse was Sgt. Charles Layton. But Layton''s reign didn''t last long. He died later that year from a bullet caught while serving on a sheriff''s posse chasing down the notorious outlaw Anastacio Garcia. Layton''s obituary heralded him as a hero, not for serving the posse, but for sticking to his military post despite the seduction of California''s gold rush.
The Point Pinos Lighthouse still stands bright as the oldest working lighthouse in California. Visitors can experience the lighthouse as it existed at the turn of the century. A docent portraying Point Pinos'' most famous keeper, Emily Fish, is often on hand to interpret life in the lighthouse.
Set high above the water atop a moro rock formation, the historic Point Sur Lightstation, first lit in 1889, still exudes its light marking the ominous Big Sur coast. Tours of Point Sur are not for the lighthearted. Tour-goers walk up the 300-foot rock while docents, often in the howling wind, explain the history of the lighthouse and the people who lived on the rock. Once at the top, the tour continues to the keepers'' homes, the barn and, of course, the lighthouse itself.
The Point Sur Lightstation is currently undergoing renovation--$7 million is needed to fully restore it--so a little imagination helps to see the rock in its past magnificence. But one thing that doesn''t need restoring is the view. Atop the lighthouse, visitors can see for miles up and down the Big Sur coast. Docents say it''s the most spectacular view on the West Coast. It''s also the windiest.
Point Pinos Lighthouse, Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove. Thursdays through Sundays, 1-4pm. Free. 648-3116. Point Sur Lightstation, 19 miles south of Carmel on Hwy. 1. Tours offered Saturdays at 10am and 2pm and Sundays at 10am year-round; Wednesdays 10am and 2pm April through October; and Mondays 10am and 2pm June through August. Admission is $5/adults, $3/ages 13-18 and $2/ages 5-12. 625-4419.