Tuesday, December 2, 2008
(Photo: Point Pinos Lighthouse, courtesy of Hugh Mason who released it in to the public domain.)
Lighthouses, the picturesque beacons built to warn mariners of hazards along the rugged coastline, starting popping up on California's shore in the 1850s to help guide ships hauling goods to San Francisco, the mercantile center of the Gold Rush. They also guided ships picking up whale oil in Monterey, cowhides and timber in Big Sur. The first of the lighthouses was built on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay in 1854, the second at Point Pinos in Pacific Grove in 1855, and eventually there were more than two dozen. Although technology has generally replaced their need, a dozen lighthouses still operate along the California coast. The Alcatraz light was replaced by a prison expansion in 1909, providing the Point Pinos Lighthouse the honor of being the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the West Coast. It is now owned by the city and operated remotely by the Coast Guard.