Point Sur juts out from a rugged portion of the California coast 25 miles south of Monterey Bay. The Lighthouse Board had considered a lighthouse at Point Sur as early as 1856, but the terrain was daunting.
Congress finally appropriated $50,000 in 1886 and another $50,000 in the following year. Stone for the buildings was quarried near the site, and a steep railway—708 feet long—was built to transport supplies to the top of a volcanic rock that rises to a height of 361 feet. At the top, after a roadbed was blasted out of the rock, another 480-foot railway was built to the lighthouse site. The station went into service on August 1, 1889.
The light was automated and the personnel were removed in 1972. In 1984, the Coast Guard turned over most of the station to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Point Sur State Historic Park was soon born.
A nonprofit organization, Central Coast Lighthouse Keepers, was formed in 1993 to support the preservation of the light station. State Parks volunteers lead tours at Point Sur Light Station and operate the visitor center.
John and Carol O’Neil have been working as Point Sur State Historic Park volunteers for about 27 years, and John serves as chair of the Central Coast Lighthouse Keepers while Carol is the historian.
Carol wrote the book Point Sur, published by Arcadia Press in 2003.
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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
4 thoughts on “Light Hearted ep 136 -Carol & John O’Neil, Point Sur, CA”
Loved your podcast on Point Sur. My sister and I visited Point Sur in August, 2017. It was amazing and so WINDY, some 45 miles + per hour. We travelled the coast from Point Montana to Hotel Coronado photographing 12 Lights along the way plus Santa Monia pier, the Star walk, staying on the Queen Mary one night, and finding John Wayne’s grave and holding brunch on his ship, Wild Goose. A Wonderful trip! My late wife, Diane, gave the family members a book at Christmas some 25 years ago and my book was on Lighthouses. I enjoy fishing and view a few Lights but didn’t know their history so we started finding them and to date have view 275 and God willing will visit many more. Keep the Light shining!!!
Thanks so much for the wonderful post. What great memories! I (Jeremy, host of the podcast) saw some of those same places during a 2015 visit to California. I didn’t get on the Queen Mary or John Wayne’s boat, though. Sounds like a fantastic trip. Keep a good light!
Overjoyed to listen to this episode of Light Hearted chronicling my hometown lighthouse! Having grown up in Monterey CA, I was fortunate to visit Point Sur & nearby Point Pinos numerous times during my childhood, thereby kindling my lifelong fascination with lighthouses. Although life has taken away from the Central Coast, I always make an effort when I return to Monterey to visit the Point Sur lighthouse and appreciate the ongoing restoration thanks to dedicated volunteers like John & Carol O’Neil. Of note, not mentioned in the interview was Point Sur’s most famous shipwreck, the wreck of air(ship) USS Macon which crashed just offshore on February 12, 1935. Thank your for this wonderful episode and I look forward to you profiling other Central Coast lighthouses in future episodes! Keep the Light shining!!!
Thanks for your nice comment! It’s a very beautiful part of the world.