Surveying the sea

Keeping an eye on the sea has been the job of 14 successivekeepers at Point Pinos Lighthouse since it opened in 1855 in PacificGrove, northwest of Monterey. The second lighthouse to be lit inCalifornia helps guide mariners at the bay's often foggyentrance.

You can tour the whitewashed eight-room structure of thelighthouse, where docent Jerry McCaffery, author of a history ofthe building called Lighthouse: Point Pinos California, will direct you to thesame view Robert Louis Stevenson admired in 1879. He'll also tellyou about keeper Emily Fish, who in 1912, when faced with adefective clockwork mechanism for the beacon's signature flash,pushed the eclipser by hand every few seconds for two consecutivenights until it could be fixed.

In some ways it does feel as if the clock has been turned backhere. Well-preserved Victorians on Lighthouse Avenue house coffeeshops, inns, and restaurants; 19th-century church buildings lineCentral Avenue; and the community center is in the Chautauqua Hall, established in the late 1800s for culturalevents.

McCaffery sees a clear link between the beacon that broughtearly settlers and the religious campers seeking healthful airs. Atthe keeper's desk, he gazes out at the clear blue sea, envisioningit instead in a winter storm more than 100 years ago.

"When it's dark here, you can't tell what's going on out there― but you keep the light burning," McCaffery says. "And ifcaptains don't see the light, they keep going full speed. It's anequation of faith."

PACIFIC GROVE ARCHITECTURE

For a walking-tour brochure, contact the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce (584 Central Ave.; www.pacificgrove.org or800/656-6650).

Chautauqua Hall. In the late 19th century, this building wasone of the first Western sites to host a Chautauqua, one ofCalifornia's earliest self-improvement crazes. 16th St. at Central; (831) 648-5730.

Hart Mansion. The white 1894 Queen Anne house was the siteof an early doctor's practice. It now houses Robert's White Houserestaurant (see travel planner). 649 Lighthouse Ave.

Point Pinos Lighthouse. The stone structure's beacon hasbeen operating since 1855. 1-4 Thu-Mon; donation suggested. On Asilomar Ave., betweenSunset Dr. and Lighthouse Ave.; (831) 648-5716.

St. Mary's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church. The 1887 Gothicstructure has 10 stained-glass windows, including two Tiffanywindows. At 12th St. and Central; (831) 373-4441.

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