Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Too Close for Comfort at Piedras Blancas

From the 1922 Lighthouse Service Annual Report:
Improvements at Piedras Blancas Light Station, Calif., $6,500.
Note.—This is a large station, with a first-class fog signal and a first-order light. The keeper occupies a separate dwelling, which was constructed when the fog signal was established, and the three assistant keepers occupy one two-story dwelling, which was intended for the accommodation of but two keepers. The quarters are dark and very poorly arranged, and the third assistant keeper has but three small rooms widely separated, one being on the lower floor and two on the upper floor. It is necessary in order to maintain decent living conditions to assign the whole building for the use of two keepers as was originally intended. Great trouble has been experienced in keeping assistants on this station on account of the congested condition and the trouble which constantly arises between assistant keepers' families. A new set of quarters for the first assistant keeper is urgently required.
The request was never granted. (Imagine: A house built for $6500!) In 1960 the Coast Guard erected cinder block housing for 4 keepers and got rid of the original dwellings. The 1906 head keeper's house was sold for $1, cut into 4 pieces and reassembled in Cambria, where it reportedly still stands. The 1876 "duplex" (elevation above, floor plan below) was razed. The Bureau of Land Management, which now owns Piedras Blancas Light Station, plans to build replicas of the 19c dwellings as well as reinstate the lantern atop the tower, which has been headless since 1949.

1875 architect's plan of ground floor of Piedras Blancas keepers' duplex. Note the 2 living rooms but just 1 kitchen--a recipe for discord. Images courtesy of Bureau of Land Management.

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