By Cameron Douglas
Working with the Pacific Grove Heritage Society, a small group of dedicated craftsmen are determined to complete a large restoration project on the Point Pinos Lighthouse. First lit in 1855, Point Pinos is the oldest continuously-operating lighthouse on the west coast, and retains its original Fresnel lens.
The years have not been kind to our lighthouse, which suffered damage to its tower in the great earthquake of 1906. Besides standing in the path of on-shore northwesterly winds — anyone who’s stood out at Asilomar on a stormy day knows what that’s like — Point Pinos has not had the best of care in recent years.
Dennis Tarmina is heading the project, with help from Ken Hinshaw, Lowell Northrup and others. The first priority: “Stop the leaks!” Tarmina obtained a Modified Historic Structures Report that is “very specific about what can and cannot be done.” It covers all aspects of the project, including materials, techniques and types of paint to be used (no more lead).
No city funds or taxes are being used to restore the lighthouse. Money is coming from existing lighthouse funds, donations from visitors, and grant money is being sought. The funds being used are specifically for the lighthouse and have no connection to the city’s general fund. The City of Pacific Grove took possession of the Point Pinos Lighthouse in 2006. Eventually, says Tarmina, there will be a need for entry fees instead of the current requested donations to keep the lighthouse in good order.
Tarmina is doing much of the work on the building’s windows, which have deteriorated and are allowing moisture to gain entry. Each window is being stripped down to the bare wood. New glazing will be installed and all the original glass will be re-used. The wood frames are in excellent shape because, like much of the exterior trim, they are made from beautiful, tight-grain redwood. “You can’t find this [quality of redwood] anymore,” notes Tarmina. Stripping the windows all the way down revealed their original color, a pleasing forest green that has been matched and can be seen on the completed windows.
To ensure everything is done in compliance with environmental regulations, a paid contractor is in charge of stripping the old lead-based paint, using a special compound that “safely renders all heavy-metal paint residues non-hazardous on contact,” according to the label. Tarmina’s team has had samples of the stripped paint chemically analyzed and determined it was indeed rendered inert.
More work is pending up top. The chimney needs repair and new chimney caps have been sourced that are a specific design to match the originals. Two new outbuildings are planned, one of which will be an ADA-compliant rest room. The new buildings will be done in the same style as the lighthouse. And one day, says Tarmina, the original red will be restored to the Point Pinos Lighthouse roof.
The Point Pinos Lighthouse restoration team is looking for a volunteer mason/bricklayer to assist with the chimney. If you have the time, inclination and ability to get up on the roof and work on this part of the job, call Dennis Tarmina at (831) 643-1943.