Lighthouse Documented Before Erosion Destroyed It

The Kauhola Point Light House is on the end of a peninsula that forms the eastern shoulder of Keawaeli Bay in North Kohala, Hawai‘i. It is surrounded on three sides by 30-foot high shoreline cliffs and has unobstructed views of the Pacific. The 86-foot high reinforced concrete structure was built in 1933 to warn ships of the dangerous low-lying offshore reef. Because the eroding cliffs and the 2006 earthquake threatened the light house with imminent collapse, the Coast Guard decided to replace the structure with a monopole and asked Mason Architects to record its architectural history and significance in a Historic American Engineering Record.

The first light house on Kauhola Point was a 34-foot-high wooden tower built in 1897, which supported an incandescent oil vapor lamp of 170 candlepower that was visible nine miles seaward.

It was replaced in 1917 by a temporary frame tower until Congress funded the permanent lighthouse, topped by a light with 560,000 candlepower that was visible for seventeen miles seaward.

Its electric Westinghouse double airway beacon had 36-inch diameter lenses and inner lenses of red and green that alternated in an easily recognizable flash.

In 1951 the lighthouse was converted to a fully automated, unattended light, and its last keeper was transferred to another lighthouse.

The tapered cylindrical body of the lighthouse had six floors, each made of 6-inch-thick reinforced concrete, which were accessed by a cast-iron spiral staircase with 108 steel steps. All but one of its double-hung windows were filled in.

The walls of the lighthouse were two feet thick; it rose from a 24-foot-wide octagonal foundation embedded 3-4 feet in the ground.

The lighthouse was one of nine built in Hawai‘i from 1909 to 1933, after President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed in 1903 that Hawai‘i’s lighthouses would be under federal jurisdiction.

The Kauhola Point Lighthouse was demolished in December, 2009.

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Photos: David Franzen

East elevation.