San Luis Lighthouse – Part 2

Another docent Wednesday at the Port San Luis Lighthouse in Avila.  Clear, but quite windy and cool.  Two good groups of hikers.  Go to their website or call (805) 540-5771 today and get on a tour!

Here are some more pictures.

The workroom is now used as the gift shop.  This is where you start your tour. Come by and look at all of the nice souvenirs.






To the right is one of the three original compressed air tanks used to operate the horns.  Originally the steam was generated by coal without a tank; then the compressor was added.  First fueled by kerosene (around 1915) then electricity (around 1933).



Kitchen Stove






Living Room Fireplace



Basement (original panty)


Main House Stairs


Stairs up the Tower


Tower Ladder


View From Tower










San Luis Lighthouse

On most Wednesdays I am working as a volunteer docent at the San Luis Lighthouse.  The original structures on the site were constructed in 1889 -1890.  The station went into operation when the lamp was first lit on June 30, 1890.  Since 1993,  the Port Harbor District has owned the Lighthouse.  The Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers, Inc. restores, manages and maintains the lighthouse reservation; they are an all volunteer organization.  Trolley tours officially started on September 27, 2009 and now run every Saturday (reservations are required).  On most Wednesdays and Saturdays PG&E sponsors docent-led hikes to the lighthouse. There is a $5 fee to visit the Keeper’s quarters which require a docent led tour.

COAST GUARD DUPLEX – Originally at this site was an 1890 Victorian two-story structure occupied by the families of the First and Second Assistant Lighthouse Keepers.   In the early 1960’s the old building was destroyed and replaced with the existing two-family duplex (workshop, storage, office and meeting place).  This building is being remodeled inside and out and used for visitor and event facilities.

PRIVY – The small building behind the Coast Guard duplex was the original double privy(outhouse) for the assistant keepers and their families and later converted to a laundry room.  Currently being restored to the double privy.

FOG SIGNAL BUILDING (or horn house or whistle house).  – Consists of three rooms – watch room, tool room and engine room or equipment room.   The large center part of the structure housed the fog signal equipment and other machinery.  Originally the fog signals were steam whistles.  Steam was produced by two boilers that burned coal.  Smoke stacks and steam whistles protruded through the roof of the building.  Rain water for the boilers was collected by the concrete surface on the hillside above the buildings and stored in the two, 50,000 gallon underground cisterns, the tops of which can be seen on the inland side of the building. In 1915 the boilers were removed and replaced by two air compressors driven by kerosene engines, air tanks and air horns.  Pipes for the horns protruded through the ocean end of the roof.  In the mid 1930’s electric motors replaced the kerosene engines and powered the compressors until the 1960’s.  The interior of this part of the structure has been restored and will become the museum.

The watch room or office was later converted to an electronics equipment room.  The interior of the room has been restored to its original configuration and is being utilized as a store/gift shop.

The tool room in later years housed an auxiliary electric power generator and a water closet, both of which have been removed.  The interior of this room has been restored and now houses the lens.

Fresnel(fray-nell) lens

Manufactured in 1878.  Recently, the lens was moved into the Horn House.  It is a 4th order lens (1 – 6 orders; 1st order being the biggest; order determined by size and distance).   4th order – 15 – 16 miles.  Characteristics of the light (size, number of bull eyes (this one has 10) change lamp to lamp.  The light does not flash; the speed of rotation determines interval. This one has a light every 20 seconds.  It started with a kerosene wick (there is one framed in the building).  In 1910 it changed to an IOB incandescent with a mantle (like a common lantern).  In 1933 it was modified to be electric with a 250 w bulb.  This one has a 220 mm lens radius.  The light weighs 250 – 280 lbs.  Litharge is the white substance between glass and frame.  There is no magnification.  The lamp focuses, reflects and refracts the light beams.

COAL STORAGE BUILDING (Coal House)  – Originally this building was utilized for coal storage, cooking and heating.  The structure has been reconfigured and now contains electronic equipment maintained by the Coast Guard, Air Force and Homeland Security.  Notice the old horns on the side of the building.

OIL HOUSE – Flammable liquids such as kerosene and paints were stored in this structure.  This building is of masonry construction and originally had a steel roof and door.  The building will be restored to appear as it did originally.


The tower portion originally contained the Fresnel(fray-nell) lens.  The tower interior and lantern room exterior and interior have been restored.  The lens and rotation mechanism were removed and are displayed in the horn house museum.

The residence was for the head keeper and his family.  There are three bedrooms, basement, kitchen, pantry, dining room and parlor.  A bathroom and a laundry room were added in later years.  Those will be removed and the structure restored to its original 1890 configuration.  The rooms have been furnished with 1890-1920 items.

Lucy’s room.  She lived there when there was electricity.  She was living and helped us restore her room to the way it looked when she lived in it. That is why it is green.  She died earlier this year.