Point Cabrillo is in Northern California, about midway between San Francisco and the border with Oregon. The point is named for Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, an explorer who sailed the California coast on behalf of Spain in 1542 and ‘43. It took a series of shipwrecks in the vicinity and pleas from mill owners and mariners before construction of a lighthouse began in the summer of 1908. An octagonal lighthouse tower was combined with a fog signal building in an attractive building that has been likened to a small church, built of local redwood and Douglas fir.
The last Coast Guard keepers left in 1972 when the navigational light in the lighthouse was replaced by an aerobeacon that was mounted on the roof of the fog signal building. In 1992, the property was bought by the California State Coastal Conservancy. Restoration followed, and the Fresnel lens in the lighthouse was reactivated. After restoration, the duty of managing the station was handed over to the nonprofit Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association.
Two of the former keepers’ houses and two smaller buildings are open for overnight stays. A museum and gift shop are open daily, and there’s an aquarium and marine science exhibit in another light station building. Jen Lewis began volunteering at Point Cabrillo Light Station when she moved to Mendocino County in 2016, and she has been the Outreach Manager for the nonprofit Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association since 2018.
This episode is co-hosted by Jeff Gales, executive director of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.
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Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org