Located between Suisun Bay and San Pablo Bay, not far inland from the Carquinez Bridge, once sat the beautiful Carquinez Strait Lighthouse. This fabulous structure was moved to its present location in Elliot Cove just over a mile from its original home on August 6, 1955.
The Lighthouse now acts as home to the Glen Cove Marina. Take Interstate 80 to Interstate 780 in Vallejo and go south towards Benicia, exit on Glen Cove road and go south. Turn left onto Glen Cove Parkway and take a left on Glen Cove Marina Road which ends at the marina
The day started out with a deep blue sky, the yellow golden orb hung low in the sky and its rays reflected against the green Eastbay hills. The drive to Carquinez, took over an hour from my home in Castro Valley. I came prepared with my flask of coffee, some sandwiches, my netbook and of course my cameras. I Plugged my iPod into aux input in my SUV radio and I was on my way. The drive was proved to be uneventful, freeway all the way; I never really left suburbia, so I was left wanting my fix on nature.
When I set out on these journeys, I never know what direction my mind will go in or what my influence what I shoot. This time I noticed as I was driving, the marring of the countryside, by large round oil storage tanks, I assume was used for oil refinery. I noticed smoke stacks and lots of trucks spewing out junk. There is a lot of pollution in and near Benicia; I assume the refineries and industrialization was here first and the people came later. Also I assume that when the refineries first set up shop, they probably thought they where far enough away from civilization to cause harm. People will always park their bodies near jobs, not thinking about consequences of pollution on the health of their families. I felt sad to see the beauty of the surrounding nature compromised by industrialization and urban sprawl. I realize that I am a guilty party to the urban sprawl; I have my house on the Castro Valley hills, it was once a nice rolling countryside and home to animals, it is now an eyesore of Modern, upscale single family dwellings. I don’t ever believe we will see a balance between the needs and wants of people and the protection of the natural land.
I pulled off the freeway and into a well to do neighborhood. It was easy to note that the houses here where built in the height of the housing boom. The road to the lighthouse led me through upscale housing estate and into a small picturesque harbor located in Glen Cove. I parked at the rear of the lighthouse, took out my camera and started to take some precursory pictures. I made my way around the structure, but not into it, as I was not sure if I was trespassing. I went into what I thought was a café, but found that the café had closed; it was the yacht clubs office. I excused myself and backed out.
Outside I met two affluent men lounging on lawn chairs, dressed in khaki shorts, leather sandals, colorful shirts, and dark sunglasses and enjoying the peacefulness of the marina, they where here to spend some time with another friend at the cove. One of the men said he was to advise the owners of the cove about creating a vineyard in the surrounding property. Their boat arrives and both He and his friend headed off for the afternoon sailing. At the same time I noticed that the yacht club was also holding a barbecue get together, they had some beer, wine, and games. I went by them as they settled down to party for the day.
At the end of the pier, I took the opportunity to find an area near the entrance of the harbor to park myself and contemplate about my shoot and the extraordinary people who where lighthouse keepers, both men and women. It was an age that has come and gone. They had felt the loneliness, and isolation of these stations and these stations bore witness to their grittiness. They where not quitters and knew the concept of duty and sacrifice. They brought their families and animals to these lonely outposts. Often times their was no communications with the outside world, but eerily sound of the foghorn, Blahhh, or the ring of the bell, I can hear the sound in my inner ear as i write, and the light of the beacon shining out to sea, warning and guiding mariners of the dangers of coming too close to shore. Deep in my thoughts I made my way to one of the bay trails that ran to overlook the straits of the bay. I trekked my way around the bay to the top of the hill, overlooking the Carquinez Bridge and Mare Island. It was a strenuous climb to the top of the hill, many false ridges was before me.
The view of the strait from the top of the hill was breath taking; I was able to make good use of my wide angle lens. Looking down from my high perch on the hill, I observed ships docked along the strait. Alongside each of the ships were buildings with towering stacks spewing out smoke into the atmosphere. What they where spewing I don’t know, it was some form of pollutant, and it did not look good. I also thought the upscale and exclusive houses around here, I would not like to be living next to such polluters. Breathing must be a problem specially for children and anyone suffering from asthma. I thought of the giant trees that reached into the sky and the freshness they brought to world and juxtaposed was these monstrosities’ killing us and the environment. I don’t contribute to man made global warming, but I am very concerned with the pollution that is created. I am not sure what the right answer is, but I believe we have to take some precautions before we damage the environment our children are coming into. We are meant to be protectors of the planet, not just consumers.
Looking down from my lofty position, I watched as traffic made its way across the bridge, I looked down at the people and they moved like ants to a ant hill. Just streaming to and fro, into a store and back out. The cars and trucks continued to pour across the bridge, being so high up I was oblivious to their sound. I spent awhile on the hill and noticed a few other pollutants, beer bottles, broken glass, signs of drug use and graffiti. When urbanites sprawl, we also bring our dark side with us. I made my way back to the lighthouse with a saddened heart.
When I arrived back at the Marina, I spent some time chatting to the Yacht Club people. It was interesting in hearing their connection with the lighthouse, they where fascinated with its history and its original location, several asked for my blog. I hope if they read this, I enjoyed their company. I got back to my SUV, pulled out my coffee, sandwich's, and netbook, sat in a veranda, enjoyed my snack and time on the Internet. Netbook is a good tool, I have to find a way to install a program to look at my images before I leave a location. Satisfied I headed back to civilization, and anticipated my next trip.
By the middle 1800s, the number of commercial & navy ships from San Francisco to Napa, San Joaquin, and Sacramento Rivers increased, This was due the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, and the Navy building a base for its Pacific Fleet at Mare Island. Ships heading this way would sail through San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. At the east end of San Pablo Bay, ships would approach the narrow confines of Carquinez Strait where they could head north to the Napa River to reach the Navy Base at Mare Island, or head east through Carquinez Strait and Susuin Bay to reach the gold fields of Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. The lighthouse service saw the need for a lighthouse.
1873, The Lighthouse service selected a site on the South end of Mare Island. A wooden Story Victorian Building with a gabled roof was constructed. Mare Island was the 1st beacon to score the opening to Carquinez Strait and the Napa River.. The Mare Island Lighthouse was kept by LightKeeper Mrs Watson, later replaced by Kate McDougal. Kate’s husband, Charles McDougal, served as an inspector for the Lighthouse Service, his father was third commandant the Naval Base at Mare Island.
1881,Mar 28th Charles McDougal onboard the lighthouse tender Manzanita travelled up the California coast. One of the lighthouses to be inspected and the light keepers to be paid was the Cape Mendocino lightstation, laden with a money belt filled with gold coins he boarded a small boat headed to shore. Before reaching the shoreline the boat capsized at the breakers and McDougal along with two other crewmen drowned. His body was recovered and sent to his bereft widow Kate who lived on Mare Island with 4 children.
Shortly after the drowning, Mrs. Watson Mare Island lightkeeper resigned, and Kate McDougal took over as lightkeeper. She was to serve as lightkeeper for the next 35yrs on Mare Island. Navy officers from Mare Island arranged for a telephone line to be strung from the Naval Yard out to the lighthouse, for Kate’s first Christmas at the station. This eased some of the loneliness that can be experienced at the station.
1901, Lighthouse Board in a report to congress saw the need for a light & fog signal at the North western end of the Carquinez strait, they realized that a beacon positioned offshore near the junction of the Strait and the Napa River would better serve ships in the region.
1902, the request was repeated.
1903, the request was repeated.
1904, the request was repeated. It was accompanied by the suggestion that the funds for the Santa Monica Lighthouse be used.
1907, March 4th, Congress appropriated $50,000 for a light and fog signal station at Carquinez Strait.
1908, Aug, The construction of a 1 ½ mile pier was constructed, a steam pile driver was used to drive 100s of wooden piles into the strait’s muddy bottom. At the very end of the pier, a wharf was built to which the lighthouse tenders landed supplies. Near the end of the, a causeway was built which led to a large, rectangular planked platform built on a network of pilings to support the lighthouse.
1909. A spacious 28 room, 2 ½ story wooden building with an attached 3 story tower to its west side was built. A fog signal building was also built and extended south towards the strait. A large veranda wrapped itself around 3 sides of the building, it was supported by sturdy wooden columns, the northern side of the building, had large dormers built into its gabled roof. This lighthouse with its 28 rooms housed 3 keepers and their families.
1910, Jan 15th A new sentinel of the bay shone its beacon. The red light shone from a fixed, 4th order Fresnel lens in the lantern room of the Carquinez Strait Lighthouse.
1917. Mare Island was discontinued and abandoned.
1930’s The lighthouse on Mare Island was razed, it had stood vacant since it was discontinued,today nothing remains.
1941, Nov, the end of the steam paddlewheel service to the central valley, The Delta Queen came down the Sacramento river for the last time.
1951 Carquinez was deactivated, it was replaced by a smaller beacon and fog signal at the end of the now extended pier.
1955, the 28-room dwelling with the Fresnel lens was offered for sale to Robert Hubert, a building contractor from San Francisco. His intention was to make it the center piece of a small marina
1957, Mr Hubert attempted to move the 150 ton lighthouse by barge to the cove. While moving the lighthouse Mr Hubert was injured. The move was halted until he had fully recuperated. During which time the lighthouse was vandalized and the Fresnel lens smashed. For several years the light station sat unattended at the head of the cove, until some Asian investors came to the rescue. The historic lighthouse, less the light tower and fog signal building, is home to Glen Cove Marina’s office.
1. Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993, p135-137
2. California Lighthouse Life in the 1920’s & 1930’s,Wayne C Wheeler, 2000. p68-69
3. The Keeper's Log, Fall 2001.
Carquinez Strait Lighthouse
History of Carquinez
Glen Cove Marina
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