“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Shelter Cove in Humboldt County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

Built to Last

Withstanding the fury of the coast

Built to Last image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Karen Key, April 28, 2007
1. Built to Last
Inscription.  The Mendocino presented a huge challenge to the designers of this lighthouse The lighthouse’s assigned position was a storm-battered, 400-foot cliff prone to frequent earthquakes and landslides. The compact tower, with its lifesaving beacon, had to be built to last.

The lighthouse was fabricated in San Francisco in 1867, then disassembled and shipped to Cape Mendocino. about 35 miles north of here. The heavy lighthouse pieces were landed on Cape Mendocino through heavy surf, hauled up the treacherous cliff, and reassembled. The lighthouse began service in 1868.

Lighthouse Levels. The lighthouse was designed with three levels. Each level had a distinct purpose in the operation and maintenance of the lighthouse. As you tour the lighthouse imagine...

1. The ground floor is composed of 16 iron plates; each bolted to its neighbors, and to the foundation. The plates lean inward, increasing the building’s stability. A heavy iron door seals out the elements. This level was primarily used for storage.

2. The second floor, also made of 16 iron plates, once housed the clockwork mechanism that
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rotated the lens. A door leads from this level to the balcony, from which the keeper could access the upper catwalk to clean the glass.

3. The third level is the lantern room. The light was generated using a kerosene lamp and magnified with a first-order Fresnel lens. The signal light was visible up to 28 miles away. You can see where the bronze handles (now lost) were bolted to the window frames outside in order to give keepers something to hold onto as the fierce winds threatened to blow them away. A lightning rod stands at the top.

(caption) The sturdy little lighthouse had to withstand years of high winds and driving rain slamming into Cape Mendocino.

Which is taller? Compared to the classic slender lighthouses of the east coast, the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse is not very tall—but its 400-foot clifftop perch made it one of the tallest beacons shining along the North American coast.
Erected by The Lost Coast King Range National Conservation Area.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Notable BuildingsWaterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Lighthouses series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1867.
Location. 40° 1.344′ N, 124° 4.176′ W. Marker is in Shelter
Cape Mendocino Lighthouse image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Karen Key, April 28, 2007
2. Cape Mendocino Lighthouse
Cove, California, in Humboldt County. Marker is on Lower Pacific Drive, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Whitethorn CA 95589, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 4 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Cape Mendocino Lighthouse (a few steps from this marker); In Memory of Our Shipmates (a few steps from this marker); Saving Lighthouse History (a few steps from this marker); Mario Machi (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line).
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on June 6, 2007, by Karen Key of Sacramento, California. This page has been viewed 1,874 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on June 6, 2007, by Karen Key of Sacramento, California. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.

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Feb. 23, 2024