H-CENTRAL COAST

Jun 30, 2011 2:51 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

No Place Like Home: Lighthouse

Sometimes it takes a lot of work to save a piece of our history. That has certainly been the case for the Point San Luis Lighthouse. Where's that you ask? It's right above Port San Luis, and it offers a beautiful view of Avila Beach. If you've never seen it, there's good reason for that. But not anymore. The Central Coast Victorian Lady has been restored, and you can pay a visit. And you'll find beautiful proof there's no place like home.

A trolley ride from Port San Luis takes you above the beautiful sheltered cove to the 31 acres of coastline where the lighthouse has stood for 120 years. She once kept watch for sailors making their journeys less life threatening. "You come here and you experience what the world was like before GPS, before cell phones, before electricity. This whole place ran on coal and kerosene." says Stew Jenkins, the president of the Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers.

Before Southern Pacific Railroad, Port San Luis was the central coast's connection to the outside world. The lighthouse, it's beacon. She was once was filled with families who kept her protective lamp illuminated, and sounded warnings when when need be. "You had to get up at night, and climb up a tower and crank back up the clockworks that ran on a weight. And that caused a 250 pound lens to rotate." explains Jenkins. "And this (the light) could be seen 20 miles out to sea."

The lighthouse was a lifesaver and was treated as such with meticulous military care. but when the coast guard installed modern automated lights below, and a moisture sensitive horn was installed, she was deemed obsolete and decommissioned in 1973. She stood as a lady in waiting, battered by the winds, sun and sea air until the port San Luis harbor district purchased her in 1992. That's when I paid my first visit there and saw the damage desertion can do.

The San Luis Obispo Lighthouse Keepers have been working since 1995 to fix the lighthouse up. "The Lighthouse Keepers have at this point put in 65-thousand hours of labor to the restoration." says Jenkins. And it's almost the way it was in 1890.

The joint effort between the Point San Luis Lightkeepers and the Port San Luis Harbor District have restored the Central Coast Victorian Lady to the splendor she deserves. Together they raised close to $2 million and have made it a self-supporting public park. and over the years, doorknobs and other items stolen by vandals decades ago, have been returned.

Jenkins says right now they're putting $1.5 million worth of matching grants into the lighthouse."We're putting in steps down to the old whalers beach down behind breakwater. We are going to be re-landscaping the old historic gardens that were here, and we're going to have some wonderful facilities for visitors"

The prairie Victorian lighthouse is the only one if it's kind still standing. "The other two ended up being bulldozed into the sea." says Jenkins. "So this is the last of it's kind anywhere in the world!"

Some credit a Chinese blessing put here by immigrants who did much of the hard labor to build Port San Luis and this beautiful structure. it reads as a bowl catches rain, may this house collect blessings. It appears as if it has.

Te the lighthouse no longer stands as a protector of sailors but a monument to are maritime roots. And now you can pay her a visit. And if the tour of the lighthouse wasn't enough, the views from the trolley ride back down the hill ain't bad.

And it's all another reason there's no place like home.

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