The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is in the first month of a three-month process to move the lens of the historic Point Conception Lighthouse from its long-standing perch atop the point to the museum, where it will be the featured element in an extensive and educational two-story exhibit.
The first order Fresnel Lens has been the keystone for the lighthouse, beaming a light 26 miles out to sea from Point Conception, a notoriously challenging area to navigate because of the dramatic orientation change from north-south to west-east.
The Fresnel Lens was first illuminated in February 1856 and used until 2000 when it was replaced with a smaller, automated light. The U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the Fresnel Lens and, in 2012, designated the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum as its new home.
The museum’s commitment to preservation and education allowed it this opportunity, and to support it the museum has launched a $500,000 fundraising campaign for preservation, endowment and long-term education projects.
On June 10, guests were invited by the museum to tour the lighthouse — which is not accessible to the public. Among the guests was U.S. Coast Guard retiree Bruce Drugg, who manned the lighthouse with his wife, Sandi, from 1969 to 1971. While stationed at Point Conception, they welcomed their first child, Mark. For the first time since leaving Point Conception, when Mark was only 9 months old, the family — along with his sister, Aimee — returned to the property.
“We made plans immediately to see the place where he grew up,” Drugg said of their trek from Oregon to Point Conception.
On Sept. 21, they will make the trip once again, this time heading to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum for the official community unveiling of the new, comprehensive exhibit.
Before the official unveiling, the restoration project still needs to be completed. Heading this effort is James Woodward, one of only five Coast Guard-approved lens experts (called lampists). He was commissioned to disassemble, restore and reassemble the lens and will be a resource for ongoing preservation once the lens exhibit is complete.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, June 27, Woodward will give a presentation at the museum describing the restoration process and the historical significance of the Fresnel Lens. Tickets are available on the museum’s website by clicking here or by calling the Museum Store at 805.962.8404 x115.
During the restoration and exhibit development, the museum is open and invites the community to watch the process unfold. For more information about the Point Conception Lighthouse Lens, to register for Woodward’s presentation or to donate to the exhibit’s preservation, click here.
— Marjorie Large is a publicist representing the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.