East Brother Island Lighthouse

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East Brother Island Lighthouse

East Brother Island Lighthouse is a lighthouse located on East Brother Island at the tip of Point San Pablo in Richmond, California. It marks the entrance to San Pablo Bay from San Francisco Bay.

The lighthouse was opened in 1874 and automated in 1969. The former keeper's house began operating as a bed and breakfast in 1980 and offers guests an expensive and elegant getaway. Day visitors may come to the island for a small fee to hang out and enjoy the vistas, but must provide their own transportation.


Although the U.S. government recognized the need for a light to mark the area, mainland property was not available at a reasonable price. Instead the government turned its attention to the island, which it already owned. Large-scale blasting leveled the island off, and the two-story keeper's house was built with the attached tower and a fog signal building. The lamp was first lit on March 1, 1874.

Two of the most notable lighthouse keepers were John Stenmark and Willard Miller, who both logged twenty years of service, more than any other keeper. Originally from Sweden, Stenmark joined the lighthouse service at age twenty and distinguished himself for bravery during a boating accident. He was eventually appointed keeper at East Brother in 1894, and he lived at the station with his wife and four children. Miller began his tenure at East Brother in 1922. During his service the light was upgraded to a fixed, fifth-order Fresnel lens, powered by a 500-watt bulb. The steam fog signal was also converted to a compressor-driven diaphone. A serious accident on March 4, 1940 resulted in a fire that destroyed the island's wharf and boathouse along with four boats.

The United States Lighthouse Service ran the lighthouse operation until 1939, when the Lighthouse Service merged with the United States Coast Guard. Large families occupied the lighthouse. They had to light the original lens wick and keep it filled with whale oil. On many foggy nights, they would have to fire up the steam boilers to drive the foghorns, hauling coal up the long ramp from the boat. After the lighthouse was automated, the government wanted to tear down the keeper's house and other buildings, but protests from local residents prevented the demolition. The lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. After several years of neglect, a non-profit group, East Brother Light Station, Inc., was formed in 1979 to restore the landmark. Government grants, private donations, and volunteer labor restored the structures on the island, which are now used for the bed-and-breakfast.

First Assistants
Second Assistants
  • F. Moran (1874-?)
  • James Rankin (c. 1878)
  • William McCarthy (1878–1880)

Building Activity

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