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Point St. George had a problematic beginning

Point St. George Reef Lighthouse construction was riddled with incidents. (Photo courtesy of the Del Norte County Historical Society).
Point St. George Reef Lighthouse construction was riddled with incidents. (Photo courtesy of the Del Norte County Historical Society).

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

At $712,000, will forever remain in the books as one of the most expensive lighthouse structures ever built in the United States.

The high cost came from its problematic building site – a lone, storm-battered rock called Seal Rock – about 10 miles west of Crescent City.

Surrounded by often treacherous seas, several people died during its construction and operations. Dozens resigned or sought transfer, and a handful sustained mental breakdowns.

It's one of the most exposed lighthouses on the Pacific Coast, and its construction was fraught with difficulties, affecting the time needed to build the structure.

The base is a solid block of concrete and granite, and its tower is constructed of solid granite blocks that were quarried from boulders found on Mad River, near Humboldt Bay.

It marks Point St. George Reef, the site of the sinking of the ocean steamer Brother Jonathan, the worst maritime disaster to date in 1865.

A boom lights supplies and personnel to the lighthouse.

The structure stands 134 feet above sea level, and has sustained waves that broke on the platform of the tower, 70 feet above the water, and tore a donkey-engine from its platform; which shattered a window in the lantern room, 146 feet above "normal" water.

Work on the structure ran from 1883 to 1891, and her light was first lighted Oct. 20, 1892.

The light, shipped from France, is a Fresnel lens, which is on display at Del Norte Historical Museum, 577 H St.

It was decommissioned in 1975.

In 1996, transfer of the lighthouse to St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society was completed.

The society conducts ongoing restoration work and tours of the site by helicopter from October through June.

Tours cost $170, and can be booked by calling 464-8299 or by e-mailing

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