Point San Luis Lighthouse Feb. 22, 1894. From the left, oil house, lighthouse, fog horn, residence. Photo courtesy Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers
Volunteers at the Point San Luis Lighthouse have been working hard to restore their over century old treasure.
A story by Tribune reporter David Sneed outlines their efforts to date.The county’s other lighthouse, Piedras Blancas, had an almost 15 year head start on the one built at Point San Luis. Whaling and the active commercial wharfs at Cayucos, Cambria and San Simeon combined with the hazards of the rocky Big Sur coastline gave an extra boost to that project.
The light atop the 115 foot tower was first illuminated on February 15, 1875.
Need for a light at Port Harford (now Port San Luis) became a more pressing concern after John Harford built a pier in 1873. When the pier was extended and a narrow gauge railroad constructed the port became a vital link to commerce.
Construction at Point San Luis was lagging when attention on the project was focused by an event on May 1, 1888. The steamship Queen of the Pacific began taking on water about 2:45 a.m. fifteen miles from Part Harford. The captain headed for the port, but had no light to mark the harbor. There were 125 souls aboard. The details of this event will be in the next post.
Two years later the Point San Luis light shined out for the first time the evening of June 30, 1890.The Lighthouse friends website quotes an article in San Luis Obispo’s Daily Republic describing the new light station:
The light is shown from a black lantern surmounting a square frame tower attached to the southwest corner of a one and a half story frame dwelling painted white, trimmings lead color, blinds green and the roof brown. About 50 yards to the eastward stands a one and a half-story double dwelling painted in a similar manner, between the two dwellings … stands the fog signal building with its two black smokestacks, and painted like the dwellings.
The Daily Republic was a brief competitor to The Tribune which, as its name states, forced the older weekly Tribune to pick up its pace and publish daily.
The lighthouse did not get much attention in The Tribune the week it opened. Editor Benjamin Brooks had spent most of the week in San Jose, lobbying the Southern Pacific with other local business leaders in an attempt to close The rail Gap between Santa Margarita and Ellwood (Golita).
Obispans feared their town would be left behind as the railroad resort town of Paso Robles grew to become the county seat.
I found one brief article on an inside page of the Tribune on the opening of the Point San Luis Lighthouse published June 29, 1890. It addresses one of the problems with the isolated site.
Lighthouse Water Supply
In referring to the new lighthouse at Port Harford, we have stated that it had been intended to use rain water for the necessities of the light, and that cisterns had been built to that end; but inasmuch as they were only completed after the rains had ceased, they were empty and useless for the present.
To meet the difficulty, Mr. S.H. Hanson was employed to prospect for water, and finally reported that a fine supply, greatly in excess of any necessity of the lighthouse, could be procured from Pecho creek, about four miles distant.
The right to water was therefore purchased by government from Mrs. Hillard and Mr. Marre, who were joint owners, and Mr. Hanson has been given the job of establishing the water system.
A reservoir has been built and a force of twenty-seven men are at work laying the pipe. The work is not without material difficulties, one of them being hauling of the pipe to its intended location. The country is extremely broken and precipitous, and skilful engineering has been necessary.
The work will be completed by the 1st of August, and the lighthouse will then have a supply greatly superior in quantity and quality to that of San Luis Obispo.