The original Oakland Harbor Light was completed in 1890, and
marked the entrance to one of the West Coast's major ports.
Oakland served as a rail terminus for transcontinental
shipping. In 1869, the first Central Pacific train steamed
into Oakland, linking the harbor with the east. In 1879, a
pair of two-mile long piers were constructed beside the
Oakland Estuary. The Lighthouse Board appropriated funds for
a lighthouse and fog signal at then end of these piers.
The new lighthouse was completely surrounded by water - 240
feet from the the tip of the jetty. The lighthouse stood on
tall piles, and housed a fifth-order Fresnel lens. The
keepers at the original light served not only the lighthouse,
but also a jetty light across the Oakland Estuary and a red
lens lantern one mile east. The fog signal at the lighthouse
was deafening to the keepers - it sat on the wall opposite
the keeper's bedroom!
In 1903, the original lighthouse was replaced by a new,
larger two-story structure. The wooden piles of the
original station fell victim to teredos (shipworms), and the
station became unstable. The beacon was transferred to the
new station, and the old station torn down.
The new structure was also offshore, but this was to change.
The Western Pacific Railroad built a ferry landing which
surrounded the lighthouse, thus linking the keepers to the
mainland. Indeed, the keepers could now go directly from the
lighthouse to a transcontinental rail line!
During the lighthouse was open to the public, but no one
visited for six years before a reporter from the Oakland
Tribune made a call on the lighthouse. Shortly thereafter,
with appropriate publicity, the keepers spent some of their
time escorting curious visitors through the lighthouse.