The original Point Loma Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located on the Point Loma peninsula at the mouth of San Diego Bay inSan Diego, California. 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.
Historical Information from USCG
- One of first eight lighthouses on Pacific Coast
- Architect: Ammi B. Young, Department of Treasury
- Contractors: Gibbons & Kelly, Baltimore, Maryland
- Structure completed in 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 for $3,810.
- Overall size of third-order lens 3.17 feet (0.97 m) in diameter
- Height of lens was 462 feet (141 m) above sea level
- Source of illumination was sperm whale oil, colza, lard oil, kerosene
- Distance visible was 28 miles (45 km)
- Lighthouse deactivated on March 23, 1891, and lens removed
- Lighthouse structure restored by National Park Service in 1935.
- Fourth-order lens from Humboldt Harbor (Table Rock Light) (1.5 feet in diameter) loaned to NPS by United States Coast Guard in 1955. On exhibit in Old Point Loma Light from 1955 to May 1981 and returned to Coast Guard, May 1981.
- Third-order Fresnel lens (from Mile Rock Light) loaned to Cabrillo National Monument in May 1981.
- Lens transfer (off-loading from CG Cutter Rush) was scheduled for Wednesday, May 20, 1981
- Lens will be on display in Cabrillo National Monument Visitor Center until lighthouse tower and lantern are restored and can safely accommodate third-order lens.
- Description written by Harmon Lougher, Chief Photographer’s Mate, U. S. Coast Guard, sometime prior to 1973
“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.”(NOTE: Mr. Lougher was mistaken about this. “Loma” is a Spanish word meaning “hill”. The original name of the peninsula was “La Punta de la Loma de San Diego”, meaning Hill Point of San Diego. This was later anglicized to Point Loma.)
“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.”