Holiday Angel Lights

A BRIGHT LIGHT HAS been shining from the top of Angel Island every holiday season for more than 50 years. One story as to how the tradition started comes from Angel Island Conservancy board member Gail Dolton. According to her, “in the late 1950s, an electrician was sent to deactivate one of the island’s last Nike Missile transformers, but he got lonely during the holidays, plugged a string of lights into the transformer and put them on a pole at the top of the peak.” Every year the lights were lit with few exceptions until 2001, when 15 feet of soil were added to the island to restore its original profile, which had been diminished by construction of the Nike Missile site — and the old pole and its circuitry were lost in the process. Enter filmmaker George Lucas, then of Industrial Light and Magic in San Rafael; he restored the island’s holiday brilliance. The Angel Island fire of 2008 destroyed what Lucas’ crews had done. By 2009, the State Park Conservancy, with the help of PG&E, had installed a new energy efficient solar-powered LED beam that has been shining during the holidays ever since. And this year, Dolton says, a team of local artists is planning to “make this year’s lights more beautiful and dramatic than ever before.” For information on the December 4 Angel Lights Countdown Benefit at the Observation Post in the Presidio, go to or call 415.435.3972.