Point Bonita Lighthouse
The Point Bonita Lighthouse was first lit on May 2, 1855.
Lens: Fixed, second-order Fresnel purchased from Paris for $7,000. First fog signal used on the U.S. West Coast was at Point Bonita. An Army-surplus, eight-foot long, 24-pounder siege gun from the Benicia Arsenal. The "fog signal" was operated by a new keeper, one Sgt. Maloney, U.S. Army Ret., who fired the gun every half-hour during foggy weather starting August 8, 1856.
This photo looks across the suspension bridge, towards the lighthouse. Another unique feature of Point Bonita: it is the only American lighthouse to be reached by a suspension bridge. A replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, naturally. The original lens room was moved from the 1855 cliff-top site to its current location in 1877. The lens room contains the second-order, French-built lens with a "fixed" characteristic (light was on constantly, no flashes). In 1855, Point Bonita's light was unique to the area so there was no need to distinguish it from other lights. A lighthouse was identified by a unique pattern of light flashes, separated by periods of dark. That came latter for this light. Point Bonita shares a feature with the Frallon Island light, both have iron gargoyles in the form of American eagles at each of the rain spouts.
This is an example of an "oops." The arrow points to the original, 1855 location for the Point Bonita Lighthouse. A site high on the cliff top, a breath-taking 306 feet above the sea, was chosen for the lighthouse by the 12th District Lighthouse Inspector, Campbell Graham. On the East Coast, taller sites were better sites for lighthouses. However, this rule of thumb didn't fit the West Coast where taller means foggier. By the 1860s, the local fog pattern had been discovered. At 300 feet above sea level, the lighthouse was often covered by high fog so dense that its second-order lens was invisible from the straights below. In 1877, after many construction challenges, including the need for a handcarved, 118-foot long, hard-rock tunnel, the lighthouse was moved to its current location.
Point Bonita Lighthouse is managed by the National Parks Service and for additional information you can visit http://www.nps.gov/goga/.