Historic Structures

Old Point Loma Lighthouse, San Diego California

Date added: July 12, 2019 Categories: California Lighthouse

The Old Boint Loma Lighthouse was begun in 1854 when a contractor's crew from the eastern United States came to San Diego to build the port's first lighthouse. From 1855 to 1891, this 19th Century lighthouse at the end of the long, high Point Lome peninsula guided ships along the coast of California and into Sen Diego harbor. But the real significance of this Cape Cod structure is not just that of a lighthouse faithfully performing its task but in its creation and use. The lighthouse was one of the first eight lighthouses built on the Pacific Coast of the United States. Since all eight were built by one firm under one contract, the old building stands today as a symbol of the nation's first successful effort to obtain navigational aids for the newly acquired west coast. It used a Fresnel lens for illumination.

Today, the Old Boint Loma Lighthouse is a landmark symbol of the City of San Diego and one of the most prominent features of Cabrillo National Monument. The view from the Lighthouse has been rated one of the three great harbor views in the world, taking in a vast panorama of sea, islands, coast, harbor, land and mountains.

As originally designed and built in l854, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse is a Cape Cod structure 20 feet wide and 30 feet long with a cellar, two upper' floors and a smell attic. A wooden leanto with kitchen facilities (a slightly later addition) is located in the rear. The tower portion is situated in the middle of the building, 10 feet in diameter, with a spiral staircase 33 feet from the base to the top. The walls of the residence portion of the Lighthouse are 20 feet high. Bricks were used in the tower construction end sandstone was used for the dwelling. Tiles for the basement were obtained from the ruins of nearby old Spanish Fort Guijarros. The upper portion of the tower consisted of a metal frame lantern which housed the illuminating lens. A third order Fresnel lens was installed in November of 1855 and some repairs to brickwork were made.

Because of its exposed position and the bad weathering of the sandstone walls, periodic changes were made, including plastering the walls with cement in 1879 and painting them white in 1887. Vegetation surrounding the building was meager. After it was abandoned in 1891, it was vandalized. In 1913 it was scheduled to be obliterated and replaced by a statue of the explorer Cabrillo, In 1915 and 1931 repairs were made and by 1935, extensive renovation had been completed. During World War II, it was temporarily converted to a signal tower and, later, was again repaired by the National Park Service.

Today, it is a whitewashed structure very much like it was when in use. Interior rooms, though altered somewhat, have been restored to approximately 1887 appearance.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse, San Diego California 1969 Rear view of Old Point Lome Lighthouse, showing lantern area and leanto in the back of the dwelling
1969 Rear view of Old Point Lome Lighthouse, showing lantern area and leanto in the back of the dwelling

Old Point Loma Lighthouse, San Diego California 1969 Angle view of Old Point Loma Lighthouse, showing front and north wall. Facing southeast
1969 Angle view of Old Point Loma Lighthouse, showing front and north wall. Facing southeast