Lighthouse lens is back at Point San Luis

Decades after someone shot it with a .22 caliber bullet, a historic Fresnel lens is back at the Point San Luis Lighthouse.

Under the supervision of an expert in lighthouse lenses, volunteers with the Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers moved the large glass lens from the public library in San Luis Obispo to the lighthouse reservation at Port San Luis.

The volunteers are getting the lighthouse ready for its 120th anniversary. They have spent thousands of hours restoring the lighthouse and surrounding grounds to their glory when the station opened in June 1890.

“With the restoration of the lighthouse, we wanted the lens at the reservation where it belongs,” said Brian Kreowski, a member of the harbor district board of commissioners.

The lens was manufactured in France in 1875. It helped guide mariners along the Central Coast for nearly a century before the Coast Guard closed the light station in 1975.

In the late 1970s, someone took a shot at the lens and chipped it, said Stew Jenkins, president of the Lighthouse Keepers.

This caused the lens to be moved for safekeeping, first to a building owned by the county historical society and then to the library, where it was on public display for more than a decade, Jenkins said.

The harbor district, which owns the light station, is in the process of getting ownership of the lens from the Coast Guard. That agency requires that an expert in historic lighthouses, called a lampist, supervise the moving of the lens to make sure it is not damaged.

The harbor district secured the services of James “Woody” Woodward of Cleveland, one of only a handful of lampists in the country qualified to do the job.

“He has moved more than 200 lenses,” Jenkins said. “This is his expertise; he knows these lenses inside and out.”

The lens’s new home is the horn house at the light station, which has been converted to a visitors center. The lens will be on display there for people who tour the lighthouse.