Image: John Bahu
The Point Loma Lighthouse restoration is complete!!!
Come with us as we take a look at the renovation of this historic Point Loma landmark.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Built by the United States Government shortly after California’s admission to the Union, the original Point Loma lighthouse was first ignited at Sunset on November 15th, 1855.
The quaint Cape Cod style structure was adequate for the time; however, as it was originally put on the top of the cliff some 400 feet above sea level, the light was often obscured by coastal fog. The lighthouse keepers would sometimes have to fire off shotgun blasts to warn ships away from the cliffs.
By the mid 1880s it was clear that something more substantial, and in a better location was required. So in July 1890, 37 tons of steel from Trenton New Jersey and a lamp all the way from Paris arrived in Point Loma, and construction of the new lighthouse began.
On March 23, 1891 the light in the old lighthouse was permanently extinguished, and the new lighthouse was ignited. The original lighthouse fell into disrepair, but was later rededicated as a Point Loma museum, which stands to this day.
THE NEW POINT LOMA LIGHTHOUSE
Image: Adam Romanowicz
At only 88 feet above sea level, and sporting a gigantic prismatic lens (a modern marvel at the time of its construction), the new lighthouse was much more efficient at its intended purpose than its predecessor. The light original lens was eventually replaced by a Vega-25 beacon, put it was saved for posterity and is still on display at the Cabrillo Nation Monument just a short distance from the Old and New Lighthouses.
A long line of operators manned the lighthouse from 1891 until the early 1970s, at which point an automated Third-Order Fresnel Lens Light was installed removing the need from constant maintenance, oversight, and on-site personnel. This was a boon in terms of cost and efficiency, but it came at the cost of constant upkeep, and it was at this point that the lighthouse began to deteriorate.
IN NEED OF SOME TLC
By the mid 2010s, it was readily apparent that the lighthouse was in need of a restoration. Luckily, in 2017 the lighthouse was awarded a restoration contract for both its historical significance, as well as its location on the southwestern-most point in the continental United States. The contract was awarded to Contractor Neil Gardis of ‘Ohana Industries Ltd., and his three-man team: Nickolas Bliler, Ryan Strack, and Kevin Goodman.
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) assessment of the lighthouse initially only called for an abrasive blast cleaning of the tower, and a removal and replacement of only the components in the greatest need of repair. However, as with most projects, there is often more work to be done than initially thought. Such was the case with the lighthouse. It was determined that the top of the 120,000-pound tower was badly listing with over three degrees of tilt, and was quickly becoming a serious safety concern.
Multi-level scaffolding was erected around the lighthouse, and it was wrapped in plastic sheeting to facilitate the repairs. The lighthouse was blast cleaned to remove the old paint (some lead-based), given a sacrificial layer of base paint to prevent flash rust, and ultimately covered in at least three layers of final paint.
At this point the repair of the upper levels began. As they began the disassembly, Gardis and his team came to realize that the condition of the upper levels was far worse than initially thought. Many of the pieces would need to be completely replaced, which in the case of cast-iron meant recasting. Luckily, the original architectural drawings of the lighthouse were still in tact, and exact measurements could be obtained from them.
By the time of completion, almost 20,000 pounds of iron were re-cast and fabricated in a complex operation requiring both wood molds as well as sacrificial sand molds for every piece. The replacement parts arrived piece-by-piece over the course of almost two years from 2017 through 2019.
The whole projected ended up taking two and a half years instead of the original estimated of six months, and cost upwards of 2 million dollars, but the results are stunning to behold.
On March 5th, 2020, the lighthouse was re-ignited with its state-of-the-art VLB-44 light array that now sits exactly where the original giant lens was once positioned. Now fully restored, the new lighthouse is ready to guide ships safely into the San Diego Bay for at least another century.
Thank you so much for reading the Point Loma Real Estate BLOG. If you would like to know more about the Point Loma Lighthouse, or any other aspect of Point Loma, feel free to contact us anytime!!!