Richmond’s oldest structure, a 147-year-old lighthouse, in jeopardy

A throwback to the days of sailing ships and early steamers, the East Brother Light Station, is threatened with extinction because a modern day necessity: electricity, which is not available right now.

It's a place seen by most, only from afar, but a place usually open the public.

The still active lighthouse, between San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, is Richmond's oldest structure and has been operating for 147 years, since 1874.

It's also home to a truly unique non-profit dinner, bed and breakfast inn open to the public for overnighting and to day trippers for sightseeing and picnics.

"The lighthouse here is also the oldest wood frame operating lighthouse in the United States," said Mayor of Richmond Tom Butt who is also the president of the non-profit that saved and runs the light station.

Last week, a 30-year old, 2,000 foot power cable, installed by the Coast Guard, failed. "This is really an emergency. Right now the light that the Coast Guard operates is running on batteries and they only last 72 hours," said Mayor Butt.

The light and fog horns are the Coast Guard's responsibility, but it has not committed any money and could close it.

Since 1979, the light station has been operated by the East Brother Light Station non-profit group that restored the property and formed a bed and breakfast to underwrite the costs of operation.    

"Then this just knocked us for a loop," said Light Station Keeper Desiree Heveroh, who also says without a permanent fix, the whole thing is in jeopardy. "The generator that we have is from the '30s. It's built to last but it can only handle so much. Which I can only use one hour in the morning and one hour at night."

But a permanent fix has a big price. "It looks like several hundred thousand dollars to replace the cable. The alternative we're looking at is to turn the island into an off-the-grid solar project," said Mayor Butt.

But solar and the batteries needed to store power for night time, would cost about the same. The money is desperately needed so the island can re-open this summer and not fall into hopeless disrepair.  

"Any amount will help. We need your help to help make history again," said Ms. Heveroh.

The Light station has a Gofundme site as does its own web site.