There is light at the end of the tunnel for the Pigeon Point Lighthouse as a series of greatly anticipated renovations are finally slated to begin this winter.
The lighthouse, which closed to the public in December of 2001, is in need of $9 million in restorations, the first step of which is the removal of the original Fresnel lens in order to stabilize the tower. Once removed, the lens will be on display next to the lighthouse in the Fog Signal Building, where it will become a temporary historical installation for guests to visit.
The Pigeon Point lens is a traditional Fresnel lens, designed in 1823 by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel for use in lighthouses. A Fresnel lens is characterized by many thin layers of glass which form a prism, allowing the lens to capture more oblique light from a light source and make lighthouses more visible over much greater distances. This unique design also enabled the lens to be produced using far fewer materials than a conventional lens at that time, effectively making a Fresnel lens one of the 19th century’s more sustainable innovations!
The Pigeon Point Fresnel lens weighs over 4 tons and is large enough for a person to stand inside it. Observing the lens on the ground will allow visitors to examine the intricate and beautiful design, and understand how it operates. The lens will also be a wonderful addition to the Fog Signal Building, a space already dedicated to preserving and promoting the history of the lighthouse.
For more information about the history of the lighthouse and the plans for renovation, download the San Mateo Coast Natural History Association's November newsletter (PDF). To donate to the restoration fund, go to the California State Parks Foundation.
Update: The Fog Signal Building will be open to the public Monday to Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There will be volunteer docents on hand to answer questions and, in addition to the Fresnel Lens, there are other installations about the the history of the lighthouse to explore.
The Fog Signal Building will be closed to public access from November 12 through 23 due to project related work.
If You Go
Stay at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, located about 50 miles south of San Francisco on scenic Highway One.