Southern California’s original Initial Point was established in 1852, by the surveyor Henry Washington. Washington intended to locate it atop the 10,649 foot San Bernardino Peak, but determined that the summit was not visible from the valley below, so he established the point half a mile west, 350 feet lower in elevation, but more visible from the west. He built a tower at the site, a 25-foot tall pole rising from a pile of rocks, with dangling tin reflectors, to make the point even more visible from below. The pile of rocks and the bottom part of the pole are still there, preserved primarily by the remoteness of the site—it is a five hour hike, with nearly a mile gain in elevation.
For reasons that are still unclear to many, Washington’s 1852 Initial Point, sponsored and approved by the federal government, and clearly marked with his tower (and indicated on this map), was superceded by a 1892 survey which set the Initial Point 887 feet further east along the baseline. This became the northern meridian line, as shown on this contemporary map. Then, in 1907, yet another meridian point was established on the baseline, this one 610 feet east of Washington’s monument, and was used for surveys southward. The result is a 277 foot jog in the San Bernardino Meridian, and three Initial Points. The base line continues to be uneven to the east.
A half-size replica of Washington’s monument was built in a regional park in Yucaipa. The view from the bench lines up the interpretive plaque, the pole, and San Bernardino Peak in the background. Note the dangling tin flashers on the replica, that were also part of the original monument, used to make it more visible from the valley below.
The original Washington Initial Point marker is still there as a jumbled pile of rocks anchoring the remains of the pole.
The 1907 Pearson point for the southern meridian, 610 feet east of the Washington point, is marked with a post and a metal survey disc glued to a rock. The 1892 Rice point for the northern meridian, 887 feet east of the Washington point, is marked with a post and a metal survey disc affixed to the top of a pipe.
The baseline runs east west from the Pacific Ocean to Arizona, and the meridian runs from the Mexican border to Nevada.