Shortly after the wreck of the clipper ship Carrier
Pigeon in 1853 at
Pigeon Point, the Lighthouse Board surveyed the
California Coast between
Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Although Congress had just
appropriated funding for a light at Santa Cruz, the surveyors felt
that it was more important to establish a light at or near
Año Nuevo (Spanish for New Year).
on whether or not the station should be on Año Nuevo
Island, which was at the time connected to the mainland via a
sandbar at low tide, or Point Año Nuevo, which would
be more accessible, at higher elevation, and more stable.
In 1857, plans were developed for a
lighthouse at Point Año Nuevo along the lines of the
lighthouse at Cape Flattery in Washington. However, these
plans were not executed. Lighthouse plans were delayed by
difficulties in acquiring land and the outbreak of the the
It was not until 1868 that $90,000 was appropriated for a
light station at Pigeon
Point and a fog signal at Año Nuevo. This was, in
part, spurred on by the loss of several ships in the area.
The owner of the land, an unscrupulous businessman named
Loren Coburn, had demanded $40,000 for the two sites. Only
when the government threatened to condemn the land did Coburn
settle for the government offer of $10,000.
On May 29, 1872, the fog signal was operational. A wooden
walkway connected the Victorian keeper's dwelling to the fog
signal. When the whistle first blew, cows from a nearby
ranch stampeded to the beach. A local commented, "The cows
must have thought there was a very wonderful bull down
there." (Perry, p. 45)
Travel to and from the point was hazardous. In 1882, two
keepers and two passengers were lost at sea while traveling
from the island to the mainland.
In 1890, a lens lantern was installed on top of a water
tank. A skeleton tower with a Fresnel lens was installed.
The original lens was destroyed by an earthquake in 1926. A
new lens was installed shortly afterwards.
The station was abandoned in 1948. The station was left to
the sea lions and elephant seals which inhabited the island.
The tower was toppled in 1976 by the Coast Guard for safety
reasons. Today, the ruins are a part of Año Nuevo
State Reserve. The old Victorian residence still stands, and
its occupants are now sea lions, elephant seals, and sea