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PRAISE JESUS! Ferndale’s Lighthouse Lens is Saved



Press release from Rep. Mike Thompson:


WASHINGTON, D.C.  Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1) today announced an agreement between the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the City of Ferndale to keep the Mendocino Lighthouse Lens in Ferndale. Later this month, the USCG is going to begin the process of dismantling and storing the lens. The city will then build an artifact exhibit at the Ferndale Museum. The city will also raise funds to reassemble, stabilize and partially restore the Fresnel lens. Once the funds are obtained and the exhibit is built, the city will obtain a 25-year loan, renewable upon mutual consent. Thompson, the USCG, and City of Ferndale have worked on finding a solution that keeps the lens in Ferndale for years.

“The Ferndale lens is an iconic and historic maritime landmark,” said Thompson. “After years of hard work and compromise, I am pleased to announce that our lens will remain at home in the city of Ferndale.” 

“The Save Our Lens group is a true reflection of the nature of this tiny community,” said Ferndale City Manager Jay Parrish. “To raise $100,000 to keep the Cape Mendocino lens in Ferndale, where it has true historical context and has been taken care of for more than 64 years, shows the commitment of Ferndale to safekeeping its history and important artifacts. We thank Congressmen Thompson for helping us retain this priceless piece of history and we are certain that we will be successful in raising additional funds to place the Cape Mendocino lens in a world-class setting that truly reflects the value this important artifact holds to so many.”

The First Order Fresnel Lens was built in 1868. It went on to become the Cape Mendocino lighthouse lens, which stood southwest of Ferndale from 1868 until 1948, safeguarding the hundreds of ships destined to Ferndale.

Prior to the building of the lighthouse, a steamer known as the Northern struck a submerged rock on January 6, 1860.  This is one of the most catastrophic shipwrecks that had occurred before the lighthouse was built. Seventeen passengers and 21 crew members lost their lives. The ship used the last of her steam to get to Centerville Beach (near Ferndale) where the 65 people still on board were rescued.

Following World War II, the lighthouse was automated and the Fresnel lens was removed. A rotating aerobeacon was placed in the lantern room in place of the lens. On December 24, 1948 the United States Coast Guard lent the lens to the City of Ferndale.

The lens was dismantled in 1949, a replica lighthouse was built, and the lens was put on display in the replica lighthouse.

Over time, the lens has begun to deteriorate. Starting in December of 2006, the USCG and the city of Ferndale have been engaged on several levels in an effort to craft a long-term agreement to care, house and preserve the lens.

The Fresnel lens was invented by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel in 1822.  This new feature, designed like a glass beehive, revolutionized lighthouses along North American and European coasts.  Before the invention of the Fresnel lens, an open flame was used to project light onto the ocean horizon to alert ships of the coastline. At the time, up to 97 percent of the light was lost and was not very effective. The Fresnel lens design allowed all but 17 percent of light to be captured, allowing for the warning to reach vessels more than 20 miles from shore.

Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California’s 1st Congressional District, which includes the Counties ofDel Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, and Yolo. He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep. Thompson is also a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and sits on the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.




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