Thursday, October 6, 2011

Point Hueneme Lighthouse

Location: Point Hueneme Lighthouse is a lighthouse on the southeast entrance to the Santa Barbara Channel, in Ventura County, California
Directions: Highway 1 to Port Hueneme Road. West on Port Hueneme Road. Left from Port Hueneme Road to Ventura Road. The beach is at the end of the road. You can walk to the lighthouse via the Lighthouse Promenade for 1/2 mile. The promenade runs parallel to the port fence.
The lighthouse is open from 10AM to 3PM every third Saturday of the month
Active: Yes

Year first constructed: 1874, 1941
Year first lit: 1874,1941
Keepers Dwelling:  Original was similar in style to Point Fermin, Swiss Elizabethan Style or Swiss Carpenter Gothic or Victorian stick, 2 stories in height, with 10 rooms that included gabled roofs, horizontal siding, decorative cross beams and hand carved porch railings, was painted white, with a red roof, while the tower rose from the front 50 feet.
Construction:Original Wood frame oak, new  Concrete
Tower shape:Original Square cylindrical, new  Square on fog signal building
Markings / pattern: white art moderne
Height: 48 ft. (15 m)
Focal plane: 52 ft (16 m);
Original lens: 4th order Fresnel lens
Current lens: 4th order Fresnel lens
Range: 20 nm
Fog Horn Characteristic: orig 1 blast every 41s (4s bl). New 1 blast ev 30s (3s bl) can be activated by VHF-FM ch 16
Characteristic: flashing white
Admiralty number:  G3926
ARLHS number: USA-693
USCG number: 6-0190
Owned by: United States Coast Guard


It was midweek, and I was in the process of preparing myself for the trip southward. Point Hueneme on Saturday and Anacapa Island on Sunday; my wife jean had my bag packed and I booked a room  at motel 6 in Oxnard for the weekend. I had set my mind to finish work early on Friday, around 4 – 4:30 pm, fill my SUV with gas and pack something to eat while driving. I hoped to reach my destination around 10 – 10:30pm. I prepared my camera bag with an array of lens with, from wide angle to telephoto. It’s was with anticipation of excitement that I looked forward to this trip, the precarious nature of  the weather, I had to prepare as if I was in the winter season. 
Finally,Friday came, my bags were packed and I was ready to go, slowly the day dragged on. To my chagrin, I may be stuck in one of the largest backups in California History. Highway 405 was shutdown that night at 10:00 pm, roughly around the time I was to hit LA. I set out from Livermore and headed south on highway 5, no real problems until I got to Bakerville, all along the freeway, detour signs were posted to take Jct 45. Finally I arrived at Jct 45, and take the detour, not paying full attention I followed the main traffic, this was a fatal mistake, it led me to 101, a 100 miles detour out of my way, I came in to Los Angelos by way of Santa Barbara. 
When I arrived at highway 405, it was like a ghost highway, no traffic on one of the busiest highways in the world. I exited for Oxnard and encountered more confusion with my GPS; it led me around in circles; eventually I arrived at the motel. Pleasantly I was surprised at the quality of this motel. Usually motel 6 is the bottom of the barrel; here I had a drive in to my room in a secluded spot.  The area was quiet and the room very comfortable. I made myself at home, had a glass of wine and retired for the night.
Saturday morning, I made my way to Point Hueneme after a few detours from the route and and a visit to some of the beaches, I arrived at my destination. The parking area was next to the beach, which was filled with families and surfers. The weather was warm, the sky a deep blue, with a burning yellow orb planted at high noon, scorching my Irish Lilly white skin. Parking had to paid for, I made my way to the pay machine and was about to put my dollars in when a young man offered me his parking ticket, it was good for the day. No matter where you go there is always a good samaritan. I strolled from the parking lot to the lighthouse along a well paved promenade. Fenced on side with high wired mesh fences with security cameras, dogs and foreboding signs saying “keep out, government property” and on the other side people scattered on clean, soft white sandy beach, with picnic stations protected from the wind ,the emerald sea beat against the rocks with hang gliders floating in air. It was two worlds juxtaposed with each other, carefree, laid back , picturesque fishing pier, kites flying, with miltary, rigidness and fear of entry.

I arrived at the lighthouse to see it was behind a fence, I was glad to see it was open to the public. Its style was much different to other lighthouses I had seen in the past. It definitely had a modern feel to it, almost betraying the past. I made my way into the lighthouse and was greeted by 2 coast guards, I believe husband and wife, and I understand they have a senior coast guard family member at Point Vicente, a father in-law, a family of coast guards. I had a very interesting conversation with the daughter in-law Rose Castro-Bran who allowed me to take a picture of an old postcard of Point Hueneme. She is the author of several books one being “Lighthouses of the Ventura Coast” & "The Adventures of Port Herman Lighthouse." Read more: -
I was struck by the oddity of the stairs. Not the usual spiral, but a bright red parallel lines angled ever upwards. I climbed to the tower, and had a great view of the harbor, The clockwork and its mechanism where functioning, hard to believe they were from the era of 1899. Things were made to last. 
After my visit and tour of the lighthouse and on my return to the parking lot, I met up with a group of Pentecostals. They are on a mission to pray for the revival of the State at all the lighthouses, certainly a challenge. I have been to most of the sites with only one or two to go and I know from 1st hand experience the remoteness of some of these lighthouses. I parked my camera equipment and returned to the lighthouse to listen to these people. They had a worship service, testimonies, and prophecies in a public forum. Some of them prayed in tongues, overall it was positive outpouring and concern for their community. This is why I love America, it has room for everyone, and for the freedom to express your faith without repression.Sunburned, I headed back to my hotel. First I stopped by a outdoor food cantina on Surfside Dr and had some fish and chips with a ice cold beer. I was dog tired and looking forward to my trip on Sunday to Anacapa Island. The area here is quite beautiful and the people are laid back and cordial. It was a good day.


1868.Thomas Bard had a learned that a of a natural submarine valley, a 1000 ft deep ran to 300ft off Hueneme. (pronounced "Wy-Nee-Mee") is derived from a Chumash Indian word meaning "half-way" or "resting place." is approximately fifty miles north of Los Angeles, . It is believed that the Chumash stopped at Point Hueneme as they transited between today's Point Mugu and the mouth of the Santa Clara River. 

1872, to utilize this canyon Bard had a 1500-foot wharf built at Point Hueneme so goods could be lightered from the coast to ships anchored offshore.

1873 March 3, A sum of $22,000 was allocated by Congress on  for a lighthouse to mark the City of Port Hueneme to guide shipping through the Santa Barbara Channel which runs between the California coast and the Channel Islands

1874 April 25, the firm of Salisbury and Co. was contracted to build the Point Hueneme Lighthouse. The lighthouse consisted of a two-story residence, with a square tower extending an extra story above the buildings inclined roof. The residence consisted of ten rooms with four fireplaces. The style was with a Swiss and Elizabethan influence. The first floor was taken by the head keeper and his family, while the second floor was occupied by the assistant keeper and his family. This building was like structure to Point Fermin which was lit at the same time.

1874 November 9,The first entry in the station’s log book reads “I, Samuel Ensign, having been promoted from 1st Assistant Keeper at the light at Pigeon Point, San Mateo County, California, and appointed principal keeper of this station have this day taken charge of Point Hueneme Light Station.”

1874 December 15, Assistant keeper, Mr. Giles and family, arrives from San Francisco aboard the steamer Constantine. With the help of a lampist, the keepers prepared the lighthouse for its inaugural lighting. The Lamp is lit. for the next 14 yrs. a steady white light shone from the tower.

1875 February 11, Keeper Ensign made a subsequent entry in station’s log book reads: “Entered the watch room at 6 a.m. to relieve Mr. Giles who had to go today as witness in a criminal case to San Buenaventura. Found Mr. Giles asleep in watch room and light unattended. Light very low.”

1875 August, Giles receives the position of head keeper at Pigeon Point On another day, He was hampered by another report by Ensign again discovering Giles asleep in the watch room,

1878 August, Ensign is fired from the service for “physical incapacity to discharge the duties of Station Keeper.”

1882 Point Hueneme made a request for a fog signal. A Report of the Lighthouse Board to Congress noted, in regards to Point Hueneme, “It is important that a steam fog signal should be established here. The numerous passenger and other steamers, in going up and down the coast, pass inside Anacapa Island, and very near the coast, which here makes a considerable elbow. The land at this point is quite low, and is so for ten miles inland, so that it is difficult to see if there is any fog.” Congress approved $7,000 for the fog signal.

1889, the signature of the light is changed, it becomes a fixed red.

1892 April 15th , the light is changed to occulting white. The apparatus was a new type devised by Maj D Heap

1899, the tower received a new revolving fourth-order Fresnel lens, which produced a flashing white characteristic. The Fresnel lens was manufactured in France by Barbier & Bernard in 1897 was relocated to the new building in 1941 and is currently in operation.

1922, two giant Sunkist lemon-packing plants were built, Ventura County had steadily increased its agricultural output since the early 1900s.

1925, Building gets electricity

1927, Walter White served at Point Hueneme until 1948. He witnessed many changes at the site.

1934, Electric motor installed on the light

1938 May 5th, it took 15 mins to fully subscribe Bonds for the amount of $1,750,000 to fund the project a deep-sea commercial port.

1939 The U.S. Lighthouse Service merged with the U. S. Coast Guard. The USLHS had constructed and maintained all federal aids to navigation.

1939 January 24, Standard Dredging Company commences work on the harbor. Richard Bard, son of a U.S. Senator, who would become known as the ‘Father of Port Hueneme’, had led an endeavor to get a deep-sea commercial port to Point Hueneme in an effort to expand the market for the county’s goods was honored with turning the first shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking ceremonies which weren't held until February 4th.

1940, the Port of Hueneme was completed. As the entrance to the harbor would be dangerously close to the Point Hueneme Lighthouse the creation of the channel entrance to the harbor required that the lighthouse building to be moved. It was decided to build a new fog signal/lighthouse on the east side of the harbor’s entrance, which the lighthouse building is standing today. It’s style Art Modern. The lantern, lens, and clockworks mechanism were housed in a temporary tower while the new lighthouse was being built.

1940 February 15th and 18th, the old lighthouse is barged from the west side of the harbor’s entrance to the east bank, the move attracted local attention.

1940 July 4, Work on Port Hueneme is complete; it is the only deep water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

1940 July 6th & 7th, a two-day dedication was held over the weekend.

1941 The light first lit. Keeper White oversaw the replacement of the original lighthouse with The new lighthouse, now interchangeably called the Point Hueneme or Port Hueneme Lighthouse, consists of a 48-foot-tall, square, concrete tower rising from a one story, buff-colored Art Deco style tower on a fog-signal building. The Keepers & families did not reside in this structure. Cottages were built close to the lighthouse. The station was automated.

1942, the US Navy purchased Hueneme Harbor and established the US Construction Battalion Center - "Home of the Seebees." Navy takes control of the port. During WWII more dry cargo would move through the port than any other port in the U.S. After the War the port was returned to civilian operations. The old Lighthouse was purchased for use as a Yacht Club, but razed because of neglect.

1996 On December 7th, the port led the nation in citrus exports, large cargo ships can be seen off-loading a constant stream of overseas automobiles.

2008 March, the City of Port Hueneme and Oxnard Harbor District dedicated a new "Lighthouse Promenade", beginning at the Hueneme Sunset Beach alongside the perimeter fence of the port to the lighthouse. The 1/2 mile stroll is on a flat, even surface and allows visitors a leisurely stroll along the beach.
In recent years, the Coast Guard has refurbished the building, and there are plans to make the site part of an Aquaculture center, complete with interpretive facility and Coast Guard maritime museum. A public access path along the shore to the light already exists and is being further developed.
  1. "Point Hueneme Lighthouse," Thomas M. Ward, The Keeper's Log, Fall 1992.
  2. "Stormy Harbors, A Retrospect of Ventura County's Three Harbors and Their Problems Over the Years," Dave Crowell, Reporter, August 1998.
  3. Umbrella Guide to California Lighthousees, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993
Inventory of historic lights
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