East Brother Light Station

East Brother Island 1914-1921
San Pablo Bay, California

My great grandfather John Peter Kofod came from Copenhagen, Denmark in the 1870's and settled in San Francisco. He married Meta Marie Jorgensen in 1886 whose family had immigrated from Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark. They had one daughter, Anna Dagmar Kofod, born 1887. John Kofod was a glazier, a maker of leaded glass windows. He joined the United States Lighthouse Service in the late 1890s when work as a glazier was scarce. He was first stationed at Point Sur as third assistant keeper; in 1900 at Point Reyes as second assistant keeper; 1902 or 1903 to 1914 at Yerba Buena as assistant keeper; and from 1914 to 1921 at East Brother Light Station as Keeper . He was moved back as Keeper to Yerba Buena from 1921 to 1929 when he retired.

The following are family photos of him and his family at East Brother Light Station in San Pablo Bay by Point Richmond.

Christmas 1915, John and Meta Kofod (left), and (right) their grandson Walter N. Fanning about 1988.
In 1914 Keeper John P. Kofod was transferred from Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco Bay, to East Brother Light Station in San Pablo Bay, California where he served as keeper until 1921. His wife Meta Jorgensen Kofod also lived in the Victorian house which served as the keeperr' quarters.

The Kofod's daughter, Anna D. Kofod Fanning with her children Walter Norman and Erma Fanning, about 1918, sitting on top of the cistern.

The Kofod's grandson Walter Norman Fanning with their great-great-granddaughter Jennifer, great granddaughter Sue, and great-great-grandson Christopher on the cistern in 1985.
Water for the island's inhabitants was (and still is) collected in a cistern surrounded by a 15 ft. wide cement water shed. The Kofod's grandson Walter remembers putting on his roller skates and donning a Navy cape. He learned to catch the wind with his cape, and it would carry him around and around the cistern on his skates. Walter and his sister Erma spent vacations on the island and lived there in 1918 in order to escape the flu epidemic which took many lives.

Meta and John Kofod with grandchildren Walter Norman and Erma Fanning about 1916

Walter, Anna and Erma Fanning
about 1917

Keeper John Kofod rowing grandchildren Walter and Erma Fanning, circa 1916.

Meta and John Kofod with the assistant keeper's wife
about 1916
Before restoration, 1970s

After restoration, 1980s
In the 1970's the light was automated by the Coast Guard and keepers no longer lived at East Brother. The buildings fell into disrepair. A group of local citizens, headed by Lucretia Edwards and architect Tom Butt began to restore the island to its former glory and operate it as a bed and breakfast inn. The Kofod's grandson Walter (my father) joined this group, and with his talents as an engineer and a woodworker he restored much of the woodwork on the island, following the original plans. He also restored the old fog horn. It can still be heard, echoing through San Pablo Straits as the ferries to Vallejo pass by the island. Walter also served for a year as one of the keepers with Pat Jackson Diamond.

East Brother Light Station 1985
(The Kofod's great-great-grandson Christopher Montague is standing on the cistern)

Photo by Sue Fanning Montague

Walter Fanning, EBLS 1997
Walter Fanning, East Brother Light Station,
Photo by Shirley Butt, May 1997

This is the book cover photo on Frank Perry's book, the HISTORY of EAST BROTHER LIGHT STATION which you may read here: www.ebls.org/book.htm


East Brother Light Station Bed and Breakfast Inn website

Montclarion Newspaper, article March 5, 2004 about East Brother Light Station
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