Location: On Lighthouse Avenue, off of Asilomar Avenue, Pacific Grove

Hours: 1-4 p.m. Thursday through Monday

Cost: Requested donation $2 adults, $1 youths

Information: 648-3176 or www.ci.pg.ca.us

Point Pinos wasn't the first lighthouse to go up on the West Coast - it missed that distinction by a scant eight months to Alcatraz Island Lighthouse. But it has far outlasted Alcatraz, winning it the title of "oldest continually operating lighthouse on the West Coast."

Since Feb. 1, 1855, its beacon has flashed nightly from Pacific Grove, warning ships off the sometimes dangerous southern entrance to the Monterey Bay. It's named for the patch of land on which it stands, Point Pinos, Spanish for "point of the pines." Explorer Sebastian Vizcaino gave it the name in 1602, a reflection of the time when pines grew almost to the water's edge. Today, the site is surrounded by another local landmark, the Pacific Grove Golf Links.

While its beacon has flashed without fail since 1855, it definitely hasn't been the same beacon. The first light came from a lantern fueled with whale oil. That was replaced with lard oil, followed by kerosene in 1883. An electric incandescent light was installed in 1919.


Light today comes from a 1,000-watt bulb, amplified by lenses and prisms to make a 50,000 candlepower beam that can be seen up to 17 miles away.

Until automation took over in 1975, the lighthouse was operated by a series of keepers, including the first woman to hold the post on the West Coast. That was Charlotte Layton, who took over from her husband, Charles, the first keeper, after he was killed while part of a sheriff's posse chasing a bandit.

The lighthouse has long been considered a local treasure and on August 23, 2006, it formally passed to local hands, when the Department of Homeland Security transferred the Point Pinos Lighthouse property to the city of Pacific Grove.