Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Also known as the 1854 Lighthouse, the original Point Loma Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located on the Point Loma peninsula at the mouth of San Diego Bay. It is situated in the Cabrillo National Monument. It is no longer in operation as a lighthouse but is open to the public as a museum. It is sometimes erroneously called the "Old Spanish Lighthouse", but in fact it was not built during San Diego's Spanish or Mexican eras; it was built in 1855 by the United States government after California's admission as a state.
Backstory and Context
Life in the lighthouse:
The Old Point Loma Lighthouse was not just the housing for a light; it was also the home of the people who took care of the light. The keepers and their families lived in the lighthouse. Visitors can now view some of the rooms to see what their life was like. The lighthouse was a bustling family home. The Israel family, including their three surviving boys and a niece, all grew up there. They gardened, kept horses, and raised chickens, pigs and goats. The children rowed across the bay to Old Town each day for school. People from town would sometimes drive by horse and buggy over a dirt road (now Catalina Boulevard) to picnic and visit the lighthouse and its keepers.
Deactivation and afterwards:
After the lighthouse was deactivated it fell into disrepair. In 1913, it was proposed to tear down the dilapidated lighthouse and replace it with a monumental statue of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. The statue was never made, but to accommodate it, one-half acre around the lighthouse was set aside as Cabrillo National Monument by Presidential Proclamation. Cabrillo National Monument was turned over to the National Park Service in 1933. By 1935 the metal lantern room had been rebuilt and the lighthouse restored to its original condition. A concessionaire lived in the lighthouse, offering tours of the building and operating a tea room in the southern room on the main floor.
With the outbreak of war in 1941, the lighthouse was painted camouflage green and was used as a signal tower to direct ships into San Diego Harbor. After the war the lighthouse was returned to the National Park Service. During the 1980s it was restored and filled with period furnishings to resemble its appearance when the Israel family lived there. In 2003-2004 the surrounding area was also restored to a more authentic look, including native plants, a vegetable garden, and a water catchment system. The lantern room currently houses the third-order lens from the Mile Rocks Lighthouse.
The lighthouse today:
Today the lighthouse is no longer in service but stands as a landmark and museum. Visitors may enter the lighthouse and view parts of the living quarters there. Visitors are sometimes greeted by volunteer historical re-enactors including "Captain Israel", a real historical figure who was lighthouse keeper from 1871 to 1892, or "members of the crew" of Cabrillo's ship.
Although the tower of the lighthouse is normally closed off to the public, there are two days a year when it is open. These dates are August 25, which is the National Park Service’s Birthday, and November 15, which is the Lighthouse's Anniversary.
The names of the lighthouse keepers were:
James P. Keating (1854 – 1859)
H. C. Wiley (1859)
J. N. Covarrubias (1859 – 1860)
Joseph Renier (1860)
James P. Keating (1860 – 1861)
W. C. Price (1861 – 1867)
J. D. Jenkins (1867 – 1871)
Enos A. Wall (1871 – 1872)
James J. Ferra (1872 – 1873)
Robert D. Israel (1873 – 1891).
"Old Point Loma Lighthouse". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks.
"The old Point Loma lighthouse - illuminating the past". Cabrillo National Monument. National Park Service.
McDermott, Ashley Thomas (July 1967). "The Old Point Loma Light". Journal of San Diego History. 13 (3).