Digest>Archives> September 2010

The Battle of Cape Mendocino

By Timothy Harrison


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The restored Cape Mendocino Lighthouse at its new ...
Photo by: Gene Schwope

The saga of the first order Fresnel lens from California’s Cape Mendocino Lighthouse is taking a new chapter now that the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse Preservation Society has come up with a proactive plan that would display the lens in a manner that would be acceptable to the Coast Guard.

As we reported in the July issue of Lighthouse Digest, the Coast Guard has demanded the return of the lens that has been on loan to the City of Ferndale, California since 1948, where it has since been on display inside a replica of the lighthouse at the Humboldt California County Fairgrounds.

The Coast Guard says the valuable and historic lens is not being properly taken care of at its current location, and the local officials say they do not have the money to make the required changes for display of the lens at its current location.

In 1998 the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse Preservation Society moved the original lighthouse to a safe location to keep it from toppling over the bluff and subsequently restored the lighthouse to immaculate condition. Their plan calls for the building of a structure near the lighthouse where the lens could go on display in a manner that would meet Coast Guard requirements. If they can raise the money, which, knowing this group, is highly likely, this could be the best alternative since Ferndale and Humboldt County officials, who have possession of the lens, are unable to raise the funds to keep the lens at its current location.

In the meantime, some local residents have taken turns chaining themselves to the replica lighthouse at the fairgrounds in an attempt to keep the Coast Guard from seizing the lens.

We still believe that the Coast Guard, who could have cared less about the lens for many years, could have handled this all quite differently. And the officials of City of Ferndale and Humboldt County could have acted long ago to come up with a plan to better protect the lens. Now, someone else has.

It is unfortunate and perhaps even unfair that the City of Ferndale and the Humboldt County Fairgrounds may lose the lens that they have taken care of for 62 years. However, the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse Preservation Society is the only group to have taken the initiative with a plan to properly protect and display the lens, something that the current caretakers of the lens and, yes, even the Coast Guard, have not adequately done.

This story is far from over.

This story appeared in the September 2010 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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