Point Loma Lighthouse

Oct. 1, 2019

Point Loma Lighthouse (Old Point Loma Lighthouse), Point Loma peninsula in San Diego, California

Built in 1855, with conversions completed in 1875, and repairs made in 1880.  Old Point Loma was replaced by New Point Loma Lighthouse in 1891.


Station Established: 1891
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1891
Operational? YES
Automated? YES 1973
Deactivated: n/a
Foundation Materials: CONCRETE
Construction Materials: STEEL
Relationship to Other Structure: SEPARATE
Original Lens: THIRD ORDER, FRESNEL 1891


Station Established: 1855
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1855
Operational? NO
Automated? NO
Deactivated: 1891
Foundation Materials: NATURAL/EMPLACED
Construction Materials: BRICK
Tower Shape: CONICAL
Relationship to Other Structure: INTEGRAL
Original Lens: THIRD ORDER, FRESNEL 1855

Historical Information:

  •  One of first eight lighthouses on Pacific Coast
  •  Architect - Ammi B. Young - Department of Treasury; Contractors - Gibbons & Kelly, Baltimore, Maryland
  •  Structure completed - 1854
  •  Third order Fresnel lens originally intended for Humboldt Harbor installed 1855.
  •  First lighted November 15, 1855.
  •  Cost of lens and lantern as purchased from Sautter & Co., Paris, France - $3,810.
  •  Overall size of third order lens 3.17 feet in diameter
  •  Height of lens - 462 feet above sea level (highest light in U.S.)
  •  Source of illumination - sperm oil, colza, lard oil, kerosene
  •  Distance visible - 28 miles
  •  Lighthouse deactivated - March 23, 1891 - lens removed
  •  Lighthouse structure restored by National Park Service - 1935.
  •  Fourth order lens from Humboldt Harbor (Table Rock Light) (1.5 feet in diameter) loaned to NPS by Coast Guard in 1955. On exhibit in Old Point Loma Light 1955 - May 1981 - returned to Coast Guard, May 1981.
  •  Third order Fresnel lens (from Mile Rock Light) loaned to Cabrillo National Monument, May 1981.
  •  Lens transfer - (off-loading from CG Cutter Rush) scheduled for Wednesday, May 20. 
  •  Lens will be on display in Cabrillo National Monument Visitor Center until lighthouse tower and lantern is restored and can safely accommodate third order lens.

"The long neck of land enclosing North San Diego Bay on the West side is known as Point Loma. The origin of the name comes from a legend of a flaxen haired little Russian girl, the sole survivor of a shipwreck, who was found wandering on shore. The local residents took her in and named her Loma and she grew up to become the cynosure of many ardent male eyes. A rejected suitor slew the girl and fled to the point where he met his rival on a narrow trail above the sea. A knife fight ensued and the men fell to their death on the rocks below. Legend has it that Point Loma was named after this girl. Actually the word “Loma” in Portuguese means light.

Old Point Loma Light--the first lighthouse to be erected in Southern California as distinguished from the present Point Loma Light--was constructed in 1851 and presently being preserved as a memorial. Not used for lighthouse purposes since 1891, the old tower, was set aside by President Wilson in 1913 as a national monument and is now cared for by the U. S. Park Service. The old tower was abandoned because it was situated 462 feet above the sea. At this unusual height, the light was often obscured by high fogs. A romantic error attributes Old Point Loma Light to Spanish origin. When it was built some old Spanish tiles were used in its cellar floorings. That is the full scope of its Latin ancestry. Talk has it that the Spanish had a beacon on Point Loma in 1701, but it has never been verified.

In 1891 the current iron skeleton tower of the present Point Loma Light was built on the extremity of the point with the light only 88 feet above the water. Point Loma has a 600, 000 candlepower light which can be seen a distance of approximately 15 miles. In addition to the light, there is a two-tone diaphone fog signal, which, when operating in inclement weather, is synchronized with a radio-beacon every three minutes for distance finding. The skeleton frame of the light surrounds an enclosed stairway to the tower platform, where the lantern is located. At the base of the structure is the fog signal building.

Pathways, surrounded by lush green lawns provide access to three family dwellings and one bachelor quarters. The area is enclosed by a modern concrete block wall. At present, three wives, four children, and five men live in the quarters available." [Written by Harmon Lougher, Chief Photographer’s Mate, U. S. Coast Guard prior to 1973.]