St. George’s Reef Lighthouse

Off the coast of Crescent City, California
First lit: October 20, 1892

On October 20th of 1892, the lighthouse on St. George’s Reef was lit for the first time. Located eight miles off the coast of Crescent City, this dangerous reef was site of many maritime disasters, including the devastating Brother Jonathan shipwreck in 1865. Of the 244 people on board the Brother Jonathan, only 19 survived.

St. George’s Reef ended up being the most expensive lighthouse to be built in the United States of America, coming in at $752,000. This was more than double the proposed price of building the lighthouse, and would equal well over 20 million today.

Because of its isolation, St. George’s Reef Lighthouse was not a highly sought-after assignment in the United States Lighthouse Service. Intense storms would often delay supplies and relief lightkeepers, causing stress and tension for the men on duty. Our own Wilhelm Baumgartner (Head Keeper at Point Cabrillo from 1909-1923) served at St. George’s Reef as the Second Assistant Lightkeeper from 1902-1905.

The St. George’s Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society was formed in 1988 to take care of the lighthouse, and this group occasionally offers helicopter tours out to St. George’s Reef Lighthouse. The proceeds from these tours benefit the non-profit and help maintain the station. The first order Fresnel lens from St. George’s Reef is now on display at the Del Norte Historical Museum in Crescent City, California.