Fix versus Restore
The task of repairing a 150-plus year old structure located on a windswept knoll overlooking the Pacific Ocean is more than just fixing the damage. It's how you do it.
Restoration is the "art" of repairing instead of replacing. The goal is to revive the existing pieces of the structure using modern materials only in those spots where the original is too deteriorated to be saved.
Much of the exterior wooden structure of the Point Pinos Lighthouse was built a century ago and many parts of the interior came from the East Coast on sailing ships more than 150 years ago. Replacement parts for the building are just not available; the only option left to the restorer is to refurbish a damaged component, or, in cases where that is not possible, to reproduce the damaged component, usually by hand, using historical photos as a guide.
Over its 158 year life the basic granite structure has had many additions and changes. To properly restore the property a time period needed to be chosen, upon which to base the restoration plan. Since most of the structural changes had been accomplished by the mid-1930's that was the time period selected.
Over the century and a half that the light has shown from atop Point Pinos the ravages of the salt air, the cycles of fog and sun, wind-driven rain, and even earthquakes have taken their toll on the light and the building. Repairs were made over the years with an eye to maintaining a working light at the least cost. Some of these fixes have lasted and others have proven to need additional work.
The largest repair project in the building's long history took place following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake when the upper part of the then brick tower upon which the light rests had to be replaced with reinforced concrete. Sadly, this structure is now exhibiting a pattern of horizontal cracks just below the lantern gallery, which is now being analyzed and may need repair.
An additional complication to the restoration of the Point Pinos light is that over the years it has been repainted many times with lead-based paint. Before many of the restoration projects can be undertaken, the hazard of lead contamination must be controlled — a long and expensive project. Since the light itself is part of the U.S. Coast Guard's aids-to-navigation system, all restoration efforts must be carried out without compromising the effectiveness of the light's 24-hour-a-day primary purpose.
Restoration efforts have been underway for more than two years through the efforts of a team of volunteer workers funded by donations and grants from organizations. During this period the following major tasks have been accomplished:
- The lantern gallery and walkway are on their way to complete restoration
- All windows have been stripped, repainted, and re-glazed
- All exterior wood surfaces have been sanded, patched, and painted
- The fountain in the garden has been refurbished and made to function
- A fence encircling the building has been installed duplicating one that existed in the 1930s
- Selected flooring has been replaced or repaired and drainage improved
Major projects scheduled for the future are: the restoration of the interior walls, floors, and woodwork; restoration of the chimneys; refurbishing of the "oil house;" the addition of two historically correct structures to support our visitors; and the repainting of the granite portions of the building.