To paraphrase a popular song from the 1950's: 150 Candles Make a Lovely Light (especially for a lighthouse). The Battery Point Lighthouse, located in Crescent City, California is not only the oldest building in town but, it is the pride of this little community located about twenty miles south of the California/Oregon border. The lighthouse is situated on a thinly disguised peninsula that becomes an island twice a day when the tide comes in. This Cape Cod style lighthouse was commissioned on December 10th, 1856 and sits atop a rocky foundation about 55 feet above the Pacific Ocean. It has survived the normal elements suffered by all coastal lighthouses such as wind, saltwater and other weather related miseries but she has also survived the Tsunami of 1964 created by the earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska and the odd sneaker waves.
When the California Gold Rush was well underway the northern California coast became important for shipping of timber for the mines and the building of cities like San Francisco, just hours down the coast. Coastal ships were also used to bring people and supplies to the area not to mention a fishing industry that is going on even today. In order to survive, Crescent City needed a way to protect the ships and boats from the hazardous rocky coastline. On March 3, 1855 the United States Congress apportioned $15,000 to build the Crescent City Lighthouse. The house was built using large granite blocks quarried in the mid-west and brought to Crescent City. The main floor was comprised of a living room/kitchen area and a parlor where the keeper could entertain the ship's masters and others. The second floor held two bedrooms and above them the tower with the light. The floors are connected by way of a spiral staircase that starts in the basement and goes all the way to the base of the tower with a seven-foot ladder to finish the trip.
Over the years other construction such as adding on a kitchen, a bathroom over the kitchen and an enclosed back porch were done. Two smaller buildings were also built including an oil house to store the whale oil or later kerosene and a boathouse or shop. Today the oil house is used to store wood for the heating stoves
in the bedrooms and the workshop is still used for its original purpose. The water supply was rainwater caught and stored
in many large wooden tanks. Electricity didn't come to the lighthouse until the early 1930's.
Today, due to the efforts of many, many volunteers the lighthouse is a private aid to navigation operated by the Del Norte County Historical Society. She is also a museum and provides historical tours to her visitors. The Lighthouse keepers are Randy and Sally Ansley with Sally doubling as Curator and Randy who is also "Salty the Clown."
December 2006 marked the 150th anniversary of the Battery Point Lighthouse. It was celebrated with an afternoon party for the kids including games, Salty the Clown, face painting by Sally and a visit from Santa. Dennis Powers, author of Treasure Ship was
on hand to autograph books. Goodies to eat were provided. That night a semi-formal party was held for the adults with live music, an outstanding buffet and a lot of good fellowship. A National Ensign that was flown in Washington DC and over the lighthouse was retired by a Coast Guard Color Guard and will be displayed at the lighthouse.
The Battery Point Lighthouse is the pride of California's Crescent City. When traveling the west coast visitors are encouraged to visit and have their Lighthouse Passport stamped. Just make sure you take a look at the tide tables or wear rubber boots!
This story appeared in the
March 2007 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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