Chris J LeBlanc Photography - Lighthouses
Providing details and historical information of  lighthouse pictures taken during my travels
Old Point Loma Lighthouse
San Diego, California
© 2012 - Chris J LeBlanc  Photographer
Location:  Entrance to San Diego Bay, Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma.
Latitude:  N 32.672
Longitude:  W 117.24097

Year Constructed:  1855. Inactive since 1891
Tower Height:  46 feet    Focal Plane:  462 feet

Lighthouse painted white, lantern black.  The 3rd order Fresnel lens from the Miles Rocks Light, San Francisco, is mounted in the tower.
Historical Information:

  • 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
  • Markings/Pattern: WHITE W/GREEN LANTERN
  • Original Lens: THIRD ORDER, FRESNEL 1855

• 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.

With the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848, ship traffic greatly increased on the west coast, prompting the construction of several lighthouses. The Point Loma Lighthouse was one of the original eight west coast lighthouses.  The site selected for the lighthouse was the summit of Point Loma, a narrow finger of land forming the western boundary of San Diego's harbor and protecting it from the Pacific Ocean.  The lighthouse was completed by the end of August, 1854, but delays in acquiring a suitable lens would postpone its first lighting for over a year.

At a height of 462 feet, Point Loma's light was the highest in the nation and was reportedly spotted by a ship thirty-nine miles at sea. This report must have actually been a reflection of the light from clouds as physics limits the distance at which a direct beam of light could be seen from Point Loma to under thirty miles. The light's lofty perch on the point meant it was often shrouded in fog, rendering it useless to mariners. In 1891, after just thirty-six years of service, Point Loma's light was extinguished, and the light from the newly constructed metal tower at the foot of Point Loma was first exhibited.
Historic Postcard of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse
My Lighthouse Photo Album
Lighthouses Viewed ...
By Chris J LeBlanc
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My Lighthouse Photo Album
Lighthouses Viewed ...
By Chris J LeBlanc
Photo book
Book Preview
My Lighthouse Photo Album
Lighthouses Viewed...
By Chris J LeBlanc
Book Preview
Photo book
Photographs courtesy Library of Congress