There has been a harbor light and foghorn at the west jetty since the harbor opened. Prior to the current lighthouse however, the structures housing them have been fairly ugly and low budget: to put it mildly. For 32 years there was a boxy structure known as the “lunar lander.” That was replaced by a cylinder nicknamed “the water heater” in 1996. Then in 1999, the water heater was replaced by a simple pole and basket structure.
Apparently the 1996 structure was so ugly that locals Bill Simpkins and Jim Thoits couldn’t bear it any longer. Beginning in 1998, they spearheaded a campaign to replace the unsightly harbor light with a classic lighthouse. Funds were raised from the community and Charles Walton of Los Gatos, made a large donation in honor of his late brother, Derek, who served in the merchant marines and was lost at sea during World War II.
On June 9, 2002, the new harbor lighthouse was dedicated. The lighthouse is officially known to the Coast Guard as the Santa Cruz West Breakwater Light, but locally it’s known as the Walton Lighthouse in recognition of the contributions by the Walton Family. Thank you to all who helped rectify decades of ugly and weird harbor entrance structures, and created a beautiful one!
- The “Great Seaport Dream.” Frank Perry. Santa Cruz County History Journal, S.C.C. Historical Trust, Inc. 1995;(2):53–63.
- New Lighthouse Topped Off. Brian Seals, Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 7, 2001.
- Our Ocean Backyard: Tsunami relief rebuilds harbor. Dan Haifley. Santa Cruz Sentinel. October 11, 2013.
- Personal Communication with Marian Olin, Administrative Services Manager, Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, February 2014.
- Santa Cruz Breakwater (Walton) Lighthouse, California at Lighthousefriends.com.
- Santa Cruz Harbor: History of the Harbor. Harbor website.