The lighthouse keeper's job was primarily to care for the light. The lens had to be cleaned daily, as soot buildup could damage it. The lens burned in darkness and bad weather but was extinguished and covered in good weather. This saved fuel, reduced soot and smoke, and protected the lens from the light of the sun.
The first keepers lived a rugged life. Point Pinos was a distant three miles from town through forest and sand dunes. Grizzly bears and cougars were still a problem. Supplies arrived periodically by sea and keepers raised some of their own food.
Charles Layton was the first Point Pinos lighthouse keeper. He arrived with his wife, Charlotte, and their four children, in 1854. He watched over the house until the lens was installed and lit on February 1, 1855. He was appointed lighthouse keeper and Charlotte was hired as his assistant. In November of 1855, while a member of a posse, he was shot and later died from his wounds. The citizens of Monterey suggested that Charlotte be appointed keeper as she knew the job and had four children for whom to care. The beginning of 1856 she was appointed keeper, thus becoming the first female lighthouse keeper on the West Coast.
Allen Luce was keeper from 1871 – 1893, during which time he saw and was a part of many changes. In 1875 the second house in the area was built and the Pacific Grove Retreat, a Methodist summer camp, was formed. The "Retreat" grew into a tent city and was incorporated as the City of Pacific Grove in 1889. Luce had a famous visitor during this time who wrote about Luce, the lighthouse, and the tent city. Robert Louis Stevenson wasn't yet a famous author, but his family had designed and built lighthouses in Scotland, and although a writer, he still had an interest in lighthouses. Luce also cleared a trail from the lighthouse through the forest to Monterey. This trail became the modern-day Lighthouse Avenue. By the time he left the lighthouse, Pacific Grove was a city with Victorian homes and hotels. Trains and streetcars ran from Monterey through Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach and back.
Emily arrived at the lighthouse in 1893. She had lived an amazing life with her husband but was widowed at age 48. Her son-in-law helped get her appointed keeper at Point Pinos. She was active and well-liked in the community. She was keeper when the 1906 earthquake hit, damaging the lens and weakening the tower of the lighthouse. The lens was sent to Paris for repair and the tower was repaired and reinforced. Emily was also keeper when the "eclipser" was installed in 1912, giving the light its own signature. She retired in 1914 and lived out her life in Pacific Grove. When the city began showing the lighthouse it was unfurnished. The Adobe Chapter of the International Questers, in keeping with their mission to preserve and restore historic buildings, selected the lighthouse and furnished it as it might have looked when Emily was there.
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Point Pinos is the oldest "continuously operating" lighthouse anywhere on the Pacific. Technically, it was the second lighthouse ever built (after Alcatraz) but was never demolished or decommissioned. Although Alcatraz is slightly older, its lighthouse was demolished and later rebuilt outside the prison walls.
90 Asilomar Avenue (near Lighthouse Ave.) Pacific Grove, CA, 93950
The Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove, California, is maintained by an all-volunteer staff of restoration experts, docents, and historians. As with all active lighthouses and aids to navigation, the actual electric light itself is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.