The lantern has two levels: the upper lens chamber is now removed, leaving the surveillance room cannon as seen from a drone camera. PHOTO BY RYAN STRACK

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The crane was used to lift 20,000 pounds of cast iron, piece by piece.  Here, the roof frame is lowered to the top of the lantern.  PHOTO BY KIM FAHLEN

The crane was used to lift 20,000 pounds of cast iron, piece by piece. Here, the roof frame is lowered to the top of the lantern. PHOTO BY KIM FAHLEN

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Under glorious January skies, the fully restored lighthouse looks rather dapper in its coat of many blankets.  PHOTO BY KAREN SCANLON

Under glorious January skies, the fully restored lighthouse looks rather dapper in its coat of many blankets. PHOTO BY KAREN SCANLON

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San Diego has a new lighthouse, of sorts!

The leggy iron tower that has drawn ships to the lower point of Point Loma since 1891 has undergone a complete restoration. Now the old bucket of rust is in order for another century. And just in time.

Straightening the two top sections to a three-degree tilt and removing lead paint layers and rust-jacking desecration was no easy task for independent contractor, Neil Gardis of ‘Ohana Industries. , Ltd. and his team of three: Nickolas Bliler, Ryan Strack and Kevin Goodman of San Diego.

“From the start, we were more than aware of the precariousness of the lantern and the day before room”, explains Gardis. “The supports of the upper part had deteriorated considerably. A three-degree list doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a ton of issues when you realize there’s a metal failure of the support points containing 120,000 pounds. It’s a double whammy!

A QUICK STORY

Thirty-seven tons of ironwork arrived in town on flat cars from Trenton, NJ in July 1890 destined for the new San Diego Lighthouse. This lighthouse would replace the operation of the small Cape Cod structure that has graced Point Loma since 1855. The station would be reestablished at a lower elevation where fog and low clouds were less likely to obscure its light.

The Point Loma Lighthouse was commissioned on March 23, 1891 and has been operational since San Diego.

In the early 1970s, automation replaced the need for on-site personnel, and as a result, tower deterioration began in earnest. Other forced priorities have gone beyond regular maintenance. Alas, the future of the iron skeleton remained painfully uncertain.

TO THE RESCUE: US COAST GUARD FINANCE OFFICE

It appears that when lighthouse properties are sold to private or non-profit companies, those funds are used to rehabilitate other US lighthouses. In June 2017, the Leaning Tower of San Diego was awarded a restoration contract due to its historical significance and location in the far southwest of the continental United States.

The Coast Guard’s initial assessment of the condition of the lighthouse (hereafter, USCG) required abrasive blasting of the entire tower, as well as the removal and replacement of the most severe cast iron components. deterioration.

In September 2017, multi-level scaffolding was built around the lighthouse, which for many months was wrapped in plastic sheeting. Abrasive stripping removed rust and paint layers (some lead based). This prepared the surfaces for new coatings, although at this point a generic sacrificial paint was given to prevent “flash rust”. In the end, at least three coatings were applied to everything.

When the Gardis team began to dismantle the upper sections of the lighthouse, it became evident that the condition was far beyond USCG forecasts. Gardis sent a quantitative report with a review of the work to the Oakland design office.

“There was no mechanical way to replace some items and not all,” Gardis says. “A multitude of cast iron components would require a complete replacement or would be ‘remelted’, or about 20,000 pounds. “

The casts were made in Jacksonville, Florida through an exhaustive process requiring wood molds and sacrificial sand molds for each part. Fortunately, the original architectural drawings exist and the dimensions were taken from them. The delivery of the casts arrived little by little, the last step before mid-2019.

Although the project took two and a half years instead of six months, and $ 2.1 million, the end result of this massive restoration is a structurally sound and like-new lighthouse.

LIGHTING THE WAY AGAIN

A third-order rotating fresnel lens served the Point Loma Lighthouse until 1997. As the rotation ceased, it was removed by Coast Guard personnel in 2001 and stored at the Cabrillo National Monument.

The giant prismatic lens, a modern 1890s marvel, has given way to a small rotating Vega-25 beacon placed on the outer porch railing. All the while, the tower was doomed.

In 2005, a new structure, known as the Assistant Keepers Quarters, was completed in the only San Diego National Park to display the goal. It stands today in plain sight at the Cabrillo National Monument.

During the restoration work, the functional Vega beacon was removed from the balustrade and fixed with the sound signal on a platform behind the lighthouse.

March 4, USCG Aids to Navigation Team, Sector San Diego, but the “icing on the lighthouse cake”. Much to the excitement of these author-historians, present for its first flash, a modern VLB-44 matrix was installed in the lantern, precisely where the giant lens once stood. The next day, the operational San Diego lighthouse again sent the first signal at sea.

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