Bringing Back the Beacon

On Tuesday, October 22, the “Eye of Diablo” was returned to its home at the top of Mount Diablo in a ceremony attended by volunteers, Park Service employees, and, most notably, Pearl Harbor Attack Survivors Mickey Ganitch, Chuck Kohler, and John Tait. The Beacon, as the “Eye” is known, is a rotating light that helped ships and airplane pilots navigate their craft. It was installed at the top of the mountain in 1928, and Charles Lindbergh himself flipped its inaugural switch. The light went dark in 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, for reasons of national safety. The Beacon sat still on its perch on the mountain for more than two decades before WWII veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors began a tradition of broadcasting its light every year on December 7, to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor and to honor its 2,402 victims. Thus, the Beacon came to symbolize not only a significant period in aviation and maritime history, but became an emblem of patriotic pride for Pearl Harbor survivors and military veterans.

The Beacon shines on October 22, 2013, after its restoration and reinstallation at the top of Mount Diablo State Park. Credit: Garavaglia Architecture, Inc.

This important East Bay treasure was not immune to the ravages of time, however, and in 2013 the nonprofit group Save Mount Diablo reached its fundraising goal to restore the light, which suffered from numerous mechanical issues borne from 85 years of exposure to salt air and mountaintop gusts. Garavaglia Architecture, Inc. is very proud to have played a part in the restoration of this important Bay Area treasure. As the preservation consultants hired to oversee the painstaking conservation process, we were thrilled to attend the October 22 reinstallation ceremony to honor the Beacon and its caretakers, who have ensured its light will continue to shine for years to come.

“Our involvement in the beacon project is a distillation of historic preservation architecture. Melding the emotional content of a physical structure with the repair of its archaic system to ensure its survival for many more decades, goes to the heart of why we do what we do. The Beacon project, although straightforward in its need and implementation, holds so much meaning for our culture. It is emblematic of real patriotism and how we now honor those persons seven decades later. It has become a symbol to a group of Americans that fought and died (or survived to tell their story) at Pearl Harbor. It is also a means for volunteers to contribute a part of themselves to this important event and the individuals that are being honored. While the Beacon exemplifies early aviation navigation, it has become a memorial, a crucible of memory. Every year its single shaft of light shines into the darkness, reaching out to the atmosphere, lighting a way for those that came before, and those that might tread that path again. So, on December 7th, look to the mountaintop for the beacon and participate in history.” – Mike Garavaglia, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Preston Castle Halloween Haunt!

Love haunted houses and want to support a great cause? Then make a trip to Ione and visit the Preston Castle Halloween Haunt!

Preston Castle (formerly the Preston School of Industry) has been featured on Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures and we would like to extend the invitation for you to come experience Northern California’s only “REAL” Haunted House! The Preston Castle will be having special tours the two weekends before Halloween, October 19th, 20th, 26th, and 27th.

This is a fun “scare” tour and not a historical tour of the entire Castle. It will be a new path through the Castle this year. A children’s fair with games and fun activities will be available until 9 pm for younger kids not going on the scare tour.

Gates open at 6:00 pm, first scare tour at 6:30 pm. Order tickets according to which night you want to attend. Tickets are limited for each night, so order early to make sure you can get in.

Proceeds of the event benefit the Preston Castle Foundation whose mission is to “preserve, rehabilitate, and utilize the historic Preston Castle site.” This organization has been working tirelessly to save this unique California resource. They have numerous fundraising events throughout the year and regularly give tours of this amazing building.

Garavaglia Architecture, Inc. has been working with the Foundation since 2006 on planning for the eventual reuse of the structure and compound. We encourage you to support this worthy organization and help save the Castle!

Watson School Re-Dedication and Open House

Garavaglia Architecture, Inc. was honored to have participated in the re-dedication and open house for the National Register-listed Watson School located in rural Sonoma County. The event, held on July 30, 2012, celebrated the completion of the multi-year restoration efforts aimed at re-opening the structure to the public.

The Watson School is a one-room schoolhouse located on Bodega Highway, near the Town of Bodega in Sonoma County, California. Built in 1856 on land donated by James Watson, the school served the communities of Bodega, Freestone, and Valley Ford. Watson School has the distinction of being the only one-room schoolhouse in public ownership within Sonoma County that remains on its original site. It is also believed to be the longest operating one-room school in California’s public school history, having served the local community for more than 111 years (1856-1967).

Garavaglia Architecture, Inc. got involved with the project in 2008 when we were retained by the Sonoma County Department of Parks to prepare a Historic Structures Report (HSR). This report was commissioned to address the immediate and long-term needs for the building in a prioritized manner to allow fundraising for discrete projects.

Through the generous actions of a private donor, the rehabilitation of the structure was made possible. Garavaglia Architecture, Inc. was further retained to work with the client-selected structural engineer on this rehabilitation project. Our HSR was used as a guide to determine the most effective use of the donated funds, address building deficiencies, and expand the scope to include accessibility compliance.

The re-dedication and open house celebrated the completion of these projects that helped to preserve this important structure that served the community for over a century. As a part of the ceremony, Garavaglia Architecture, Inc.’s Preservation Services Manager, Becky Urbano, was invited to speak about the history of the structure and its role in the history of the area and greater Sonoma County. While the interior of the building is not currently open to the public, we invite you to visit the park where you can view this structure and learn more about its history.