The leaning lighthouse of Echo Park is back on a solid footing

Workers are in the final stretch of repairing and renovating the Echo Park Lake Boathouse, the 80-year-old, Spanish Colonial building on the eastern shore of the lake.  The job, which is separate from the approximately $65 million lake clean up now underway, included the installation of all  new plumbing and electrical systems, including a new restaurant kitchen, as well as the repair and restoration of old windows, doors and walls. But perhaps the most challenging part of this $1.3 million project was the repair of the approximately 35-foot-high lighthouse that rises above the red-tile roof of the boathouse.  Not only did workers have to repair the tower’s historic features, including a copper collar and wood windows that had been covered with stucco,  but they also had to straighten the tower, which was found to be leaning between two to three inches in the direction of the water, said project manager Ohaji K. Abdalla with the city’s Bureau of Engineering.

“It was in terrible shape,” Abdalla said. “The plaster was holding up the tower on one side.”

Part of the problem was that the tower and boathouse would literally bump into each other during earthquakes, taking a toll on the structures. In addition, the tower sustained damage from water and birds that entered through the lighthouse windows, which would be left open at times. “The pigeon poop was quite bad in there,” Abdalla said.

As part of the project that began a year ago, the tower and boathouse were carefully connected together at the floor and roof to prevent the lighthouse from leaning and to allow both structures to move together in the same direction during quakes. “We pushed it back and connected the tower to the boathouse,” Abdalla said. Workers also improved the seal around the windows to prevent leaks and replaced plexiglass windows with frosted glass.

The tower’s new copper collar and glass are currently peeking from behind scaffolding as workers apply new stucco and paint – a shade of sand – to the exterior of the boathouse. Work on the entire 1,485-square foot boathouse is scheduled to be finished next month but the building will not open until the park clean up and rehabilitation is completed sometime next year.  Once work on the building is complete, the city will focus on finding a concessionaire to open a cafe and rent boats.

The lighthouse tower will remain closed to the public but will once again shine as a symbol of the neighborhood, Abdalla said.

"Browncoat" shows old window openings and the original shape of the boathouse.

Docks awaiting the return of boats - and water - to the lake.

Project manager Ohaji K. Abdalla (far right) inside the main room of the boathouse.

New copper flashing and glass has been installed at the top of the lighthouse.



  1. so excited! i’ve never actually been inside… hope i can grab a coffee and bite to eat at some point in the near future. (and of course a boat ride after that.)

  2. Great story and excellent photos–good to see the progress being made and the attention to detail involved in the work.
    As far as the boats, Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park (SF) is going through something similar and after one company running the concessions for decades, a new company was chosen (previous company had not done that well with maintenance, etc).
    Here’s two websites to check out if the Echo Park people want to consider them…
    I have very fond memories of Stowe Lake and hope Echo Park Lake can recreate its own rebirth.

  3. Can they please, please, please, please serve alcoholic beverages? It would be AMAZING to have a drinking hole on the water.

    • it would – but i doubt that will happen. it’s in a park, after all. i mean, think of the children!

      (or, just bring a mini booze bottle to sweeten whatever you’re drinking.)

    • Nah, there’s no way they’ll sell booze in a city park. But it would make a nice coffee shop, especially if they expanded the dock and put some tables out there.

      • They did in that movie “Dead Again”, a terrible noir ripoff starring Kenneth Branagh.

        They filmed the lighthouse as a cafe with beer.

        • Everyday we pass by the lake, we’re counting the days until the openning. We want our son to continue enjoying it as we had when we were young.

          It would be great to see the boats back and the lighthouse put into good use as a cafe or eatery so some sort. A plus would be if they served beer and wine (but just imagine the can of worms that would open up >_< )

  4. Yay, reading and seeing post has made my dad. Altho am sure there will be vandalism before lake reopens, that copper looks like a big lure to metal thieves, sorry to say.

    I fished there as a kid, we bought food and sodas at the boathouse. There were canoes for rent, worms for sale, the park was wonderful. It was always ragged at edges, literally, could put up a fierce smell on hot days, esp when a dead carp floated by covered with flies, but it was our park and we loved it.

  5. One of my favorite childhood memories was eating a burger at the boathouse way back in the 60s. I grew up in Echo Park, learned to swim at the E.P. pool, played basketball in the gym and now look forward to the grand reopening of the boathouse/cafe next year.

  6. I lived in echo park for 58 yrs y did it take so long. For this too happen can’t wait good job I lived at 909 glendale bvd over looking the park. Me and my brother david worked at the boathouse. We would work for tips. About one two dollars. On a good weekend. I loved too fish. Allday and some time into the night. I hope you bring it back to the way it was.

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