Piedras Blancas Lighthouse
The lighthouse, about 12 miles north of Cambria, was built on land that once belonged to indigenous peoples and later to Mission San Miguel. After the missions were secularized by the Mexican government, it became part of Rancho Piedra Blanca, a Mexican land grant given to Don Jose de Jesus Pico in 1840.
After the Mexican-American war was settled by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, a portion of the Rancho was reserved for a light station by President Andrew Johnson on June 8, 1866. In the meantime, possession of Point Piedras Blancas had reverted to Don Juan Castro, who vigorously protested the building of a light station on his property. He is quoted as saying in 1874:
"I am advised by my counsel that upon the facts of this case the United States have no property rights whatever in the land upon which you are now engaged in erecting a light house; that we are the legal owners of the land and can eject any person interfering with our possession from the premises."
In spite of these protests, an appropriation of $75,000 prompted construction of the light station in 1872, including the first order light and fog signal. By 1874, work began to blast off the top of the rock at the tower site, but the rock turned out to be very hard and nearly impossible to drill into. The plan for the tower was modified, so that instead of removing the rock down to the bottom of the tower, it was removed only down to the level of the floor and that portion of the tower below the floor was simply constructed around the remaining rock.
During this same year the iron work for the tower was completed as was the brick work. The lantern and lens were on site and they were assembled on top of the tower around the beginning of 1875. On February 15, 1875 the lighthouse itself was completed and put into operation.
Plans for the light station included a dwelling for the keepers, but when the tower was completed, money was scarce. In 1874, Congress approved funding to complete the dwelling, along with a cistern and outbuildings. The lighthouse keepers lived in the shanties which had been abandoned by the construction workers.
In 1906, the fog signal was finally installed at Piedras Blancas. According to the Lighthouse Board, the addition of the fog signal required an additional keeper, so a frame dwelling was also constructed for the head keeper. In 1960, the Coast Guard razed the original keeper's dwellings and built four homes for the keepers and their families. The head keeper's house was purchased from the Coast Guard by Kitty Lawler for the token sum of one dollar. The house was sawed into quarters, horizontally and vertically, and moved from the station to Chatham Street in Cambria where it currently stands.
Piedras Blancas Light Station was originally built by the United States Lighthouse Board in 1874 and was transferred to the Coast Guard in 1937. On October 12, 2001, Piedras Blancas Light Station was officially transferred to the Bureau of Land Management. A formal transition ceremony was held on May 25, 2002 and that very night a new aero beacon was first illuminated. BLM is now in the process of restoring Piedras Blancas Light Station to its former glory. Public tours of the property are now offered.