Santa Cruz, located at the northern shore of Monterey Bay,
was originally appropriated funding for a lighthouse in the
early 1850's. Difficulty in acquiring land titles delayed
the project, and the lighthouse was not built until 1868.
The light, a wooden structure with a tower, was modeled after
the light at Ediz Hook, Washington. The
fixed fifth-order Fresnel lens was first lit on December 31,
1869. Shortly afterwards the light was changed from white to
red, in order to more easily distinguish it from the numerous
residential lights in the area.
In 1878, the lighthouse was threatened by the gradual erosion
of caves underneath Lighthouse Point. The following year the
wooden lighthouse was placed in rollers and moved about 300
feet inland. Today, most of the original lighthouse site is
gone. Erosion made part of the original foundation and
cistern visible in the 1990s.
There were only three keepers at the original Santa Cruz
Light. The first keeper, A.A. Hecox, was succeeded in 1883
by his daughter Laura, who faithfully attended to the light
until her retirement in 1916. Arthur Anderson served until
the light was discontinued in 1941.
Keeper Laura Hecox was not only the lighthouse keeper,
but also an avid amateur marine biologist.
Only Laura and her mother occupied the six-room lighthouse,
so one of the rooms became a museum housing Laura's
collection, notes, and literature. Her collection was donated
to the public library in Santa Cruz in 1902, and was exhibited
in the Hecox Museum, which opened in 1905.
A fourth-order lens was installed in 1909. In 1941 an
automated light was placed on a wooden tower near the original
lighthouse. During World War Two the lighthouse was used as
a lookout tower. The 54th Coast Artillery - an African-American
unit - was stationed at Lighthouse Point.
After the war, the lighthouse building was deemed unnecessary.
The structure was sold in 1948 to a local carpenter who
purchased the structure for salvage rights. The old lighthouse
was razed in May, 1948, leaving only the automated wooden tower.
In 1965 eighteen-year-old Mark Abbott drowned while surfing
near the point. His parents used the insurance money to
build a brick lighthouse near the site of the old light.
"Our family had always loved lighthouses, so we decided it
was the best thing to do." (Nelson, p. 69) The lighthouse
was completed in 1967. The new lighthouse replaced the wooden tower.
The original lantern room was from the
Oakland Harbor Light.
(The lantern room was replaced in 1996 due to corrosion.)
Today, a working optic with a red tint is housed in the
The Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse is currently home to the
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. The museum was founded in 1985
by Longboard Union members Dave Dyc and Boots McGhee, who
received permission to house the museum in the lighthouse.
The museum opened in May of 1986, and is a branch of the
Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. The lighthouse is currently
threatened by erosion, which is undermining the point.
In Fall 2001, a second lighthouse was built in Santa
Cruz. The Walton Lighthouse (or Santa Cruz Harbor Light)
was built on the West Jetty of Santa Cruz Harbor. The tower
houses a modern green optic 54 feet above sea level. The light was
dedicated on June 9, 2002. The light received its name from
one of its patrons - Charles Walton - who donated $60,000 for the
project in memory of his brother Derek of the
Lighthouse Point, Perry pp. 47-49, 118, 164-165
Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Nelson pp. 67-69
Women Who Kept the Lights, Clifford p. 124
The Keeper's Log Summer 2003