“New” Point Loma Lighthouse (Karen Scanlon)

by Karen Wagner Scanlon

Like a finger pointing south and out to sea, the peninsula of Point Loma protrudes from the mainland of San Diego and shelters the channel that links the Pacific Ocean to San Diego Bay. On a ten-acre slope at the fickle shore[1] of America’s extreme southwestern edge stands the “New” Point Loma Lighthouse. This working Coast Guard Light Station has been a crucial feature of San Diego’s landscape for over a century yet receives little of the attention paid to its forerunner.

Some within the United States Coast Survey had forewarned that Point Loma’s summit—422 feet above the surf—was too high for a lighthouse due to the likelihood of low clouds and fog obscuring the light for ships entering the harbor. Still, the summit site was chosen, and on November 15, 1855, the first broad band of white light pierced the darkness from Point Loma Lighthouse.[2] But just thirty-five years and four months later, United States Light House Service personnel were packing the lamp and lens for shipment to the lighthouse depot in New York.[3] Point Loma Light Station was reestablished with a new, and lower, lighthouse and two detached keeper’s dwellings.

Point Loma’s new lighthouse went into service on March 23, 1891.[4] Lighthouse engineers were plagued with troubles in the acquisition of its illuminating apparatus—troubles that delayed the operation of the lighthouse for months after the tower was erected. Today, by fortuitous discovery, the origin of the 3rd Order Fresnel lens that served the lighthouse has been more fully revealed. This revelation is but a single piece to a larger lens acquisition puzzle. (Please see a separate article titled A Resurrection of the Contemplation of H-L 330, Scanlon and Fahlen.)

Over Rails and Ruts and Out to the Point

The thirty-seven and one-half tons of Point Loma Lighthouse rolled into San Diego from Trenton, New Jersey, on flatcars of the California Southern Railroad on July 5, 1890. The train arrived at the rail yards at the foot of D Street, but contractor J.M. Scott, “had it run back to Old Town for unloading.”[5] The iron skeletal tower—constructed by the Phoenix Iron Works of Trenton, New Jersey—was “hauled on strong wagons” out to the Point. A newspaper reporter quoted Scott as saying that he thought it would take twenty men fifteen days to get the ironwork to the grounds and in position. Not bad, considering the only roads were rutted pathways down to the tip of Point Loma.[6]

According to the Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, 1891, “…the tower was received at the site on July 16, and was erected during August. A concrete block 25 feet square and 14 feet deep[7], upon which the tower would rest, was ready to receive the only skeletal structure of its type on the West Coast of the United States.

By October 18, 1890, the Superintendent of Lighthouse Repairs, Frank A. Burke, and his assistant, Mr. Keefe, had arrived from San Francisco to place the lens in the tower. The poor roads to the light station often made approach by water attractive; the disadvantages of this were soon discovered. From town, the two rowed a small boat over to the speck of sand beach below the light tower and proceeded to take measurements for the fitting of the illuminating apparatus. The noon surf was high. Anticipating a wet departure, Mr. Burke rolled up his trousers, removed his socks and shoes, and stowed his coat and vest in a small box under the seat in the boat. He pushed the craft away from the beach, and headed to sea. A breaker caught him amidships and he managed to jump into the waist-deep brine before the boat flipped. The lighthouse watchman—who was tending the station before the keepers moved in—raced to assist the wet and angered superintendent, and the boat was dragged back to shore.[8] They had, at least, determined that the pedestal acquired for the lens would be the appropriate size.

However, a report made to the Light-House Board, Treasury Department, on October 20, 1890 (and also included in the Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, 1891) states that “the lens furnished for the new tower was found to be too large for the space provided for it, therefore, it was necessary to procure another…”  Reports had also been filed recommending alterations for the illuminating apparatus because of a disparity of the lens and lantern.[9]

Noted lighthouse historian Thomas A. Tag suggests that if a new correct lens from France had to be ordered, delivery would have taken up to three years. “The Twelfth District lighthouse engineers were in a bit of a mess when the lens they had ordered and paid for wouldn’t fit—someone didn’t know how to read blueprints. Most likely a trade would have been made for a lens available in a depot somewhere.”[10]

A trade would explain the next piece of the lens acquisition puzzle. Records of whether a lens and pedestal or just a pedestal was traded are not available. These early accounts were destroyed by a fire at the Department of Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. in the 1920s. It is presumed that both were traded since a new lens had been requested by Lighthouse Engineer Heuer,[11] and the pedestal bears the name of another lighthouse—Anclote Keys, Florida.

The recent discovery of the association between Anclote Key and Point Loma was made simply—with a wax crayon and piece of paper. Assisted by station resident, 11-year old Jesse Strangfeld, the author made a crayon rubbing of a four- by two-and-one-half inch brass plate attached to the door of the lens pedestal.[12] [13] The inscription on the plate is not legible, except for a few letters. From the rubbing, however, it becomes clear: ANCLOTE KEYS Florida HENRY-LE PAUTE Engineer PARIS 1887.

Interestingly, Anclote Keys Lighthouse had been in operation since October 1887 using a 3rd Order Fresnel lens manufactured in 1884.[14] It is unclear why Point Loma’s lens had not made its original Florida destination.

The acquisition of the Anclote Key lens was not the first time, or the second, that a lens associated with Point Loma had gone astray. The ruby-colored screens and clear glass prism lens originally ordered and designed for the “new” Point Loma Lighthouse would not arrive in San Diego for another seventy-seven years. Consequently, it was never used at Point Loma. Quite a work of art, the lens was displayed at the Paris Exhibition in 1889 by request of its prominent Parisian manufacturer, Henry-LePaute.[15] The lens was awarded gold and bronze medals, despite the fact that it was exhibited in the shadow of another demonstration of French technology, the new Eiffel Tower.

Henry-LePaute then requested to exhibit the lens at Chicago’s Colombian Exposition (World’s Fair) in 1893. The firm earned engineering awards here, too, this time competing with the thrill of George W. Ferris’ riding “Wheel”. But because of the delay caused by the two exhibitions, the U.S. Lighthouse Service sought another lens for Point Loma. The award-winning lens stayed in Chicago, where it served the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse until the early 1960s. By 1968, sections of this lens and one door of the marble-inscribed pedestal[16] found its way to San Diego and were exhibited at Cabrillo National Monument Visitor Center. These lens sections were later crated and are stored at CNM.[17]

The barrel-shaped optic that finally served Point Loma’s tower —a 3rd Order Fresnel lens—arrived from San Francisco aboard the steamer Corona on February 3, 1891. The glass structure was hauled to the light station by an eight-horse wagon. A reporter for the city newspaper somewhat flippantly described the lens as “a $4,000 affair from France.”[18] At the time, the French were the undisputed leaders in manufacturing precision lenses, ground slowly and with great skill—technology that the United States Light House Service respected.

Each of the twelve glass prism lens panels contains a center “bull’s-eye” that is designed to reflect and refract errant rays from the light source. Originally, the lamp at Point Loma was a kerosene burner with three concentric, tubular wicks. Multiple wicks were used to create a more powerful light source. A flashing red and white light glowed from the lantern room, the result of panes of red glass suspended in front of every other one of the twelve lens panels. The first burner used three gallons of oil a night to produce a 60,000-candlepower beam. In 1912, the new incandescent oil vapor light used only one gallon of oil a night to produce 120,000 candlepower of light. By that time, the red screens had been removed because the red flash was a weaker signal than the white. The station’s characteristic changed from one flash every twenty seconds to one white flash every fifteen seconds.[19]

Life at the Light Station

Keepers Robert D. Israel and Assistant Thomas W. Anderson moved down the hill from the old lighthouse a few days before the switch to the new lighthouse was made. Two white clapboard Mission Revival-style[20] structures with lead-colored trim housed what was, at the time, a lonely community of just two families.

It was seven miles to town by mule team or horse-drawn buggy over rutted dirt roads or a row across the water at low tide in a small boat. The new Point Loma Light Station was not issued a boat, but neighboring Ballast Point Light Station was.[21] Occasionally supplies were shuttled between the two and delivered to the beach below Point Loma’s tower, though there was no wharf or landing. People and supplies that were landed on the beach then negotiated a 35-foot climb up a steep cliff—on foot or by using a hoist.[22]

The first keeper at the new lighthouse, Captain Israel, had spent twenty years at the old lighthouse, hired by the U.S. Light House Service in 1871 as assistant keeper and promoted to keeper in 1873. His captaincy was the customary title bestowed upon lighthouse principle keepers; actually, he had been a Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s Regiment of Mounted Rifles during the Mexican War, 1846.[23] Israel lighted the wicks in the new tower on his sixty-eighth birthday, yet much of what is known about this light keeper occurred during his tenure at the old lighthouse.

Life at the old lighthouse in those days was at times, monotonous— frequent white-washings of the dwelling, tower, and outbuildings, inside and out; sweeping down the stairs; measuring oil and carrying it to the lantern; caring for the chickens and horse; and cleaning the privy was “a nasty job.” A keeper’s duties at the new lighthouse would change only slightly, with no tower to whitewash but additional steps to climb. Perhaps more difficult than the mundane jobs performed to keep the light burning was that of keepers having to get along with each other. One assistant keeper after another reported to the lighthouse inspector the disagreeable nature of Captain Israel.[24]

Israel stayed on at the new light just nine months, all the while, still angered over an incident that had occurred three years earlier. One of his sons and the son of the assistant keeper had lost the old station’s boat. The lighthouse district inspector deducted $50 pay from each keeper for the cost of the boat. Twice the Lighthouse Board denied Israel’s request for reimbursement.[25] It seems that Israel’s recourse then was to make a fuss about the water supply not being enough, and a slacking off of his duties as manager of the new light station. “His criticism of the state-of-the-art rainwater catchments and cistern was forthright if not diplomatic…”[26] In November 1891, the Lighthouse Board wrote Israel that a recent inspection of the new light station was unsatisfactory, that the lens was not clean, and the grounds were in disorder.[27] Israel’s career as light keeper ended in January the following year.

But Captain Israel had a point about the water shortage. According to Joe Brennan, son of Israel’s replacement[28], George Patrick Brennan, the water supply was a problem:

We had what they called the water-shed out in back of the buildings and it was all right in wet years but the years weren’t always wet.
The water-shed was a big patch of cement about the size of a couple of tennis courts, on the side of the hill, with a cistern at its lower corner. It was supposed to catch enough rain-water to supply the two keepers’ families, but it was seldom enough. During the dry years…we used to load water from a well in Roseville, half a dozen barrels of it at a time, and bring it out in a wagon…as often as twice a week, if it was a long, dry spell.[29]

The catch-water basin was not completed until the end of October 1891, seven months after the move to the new lighthouse. Accusations of shoddy work, false reports, a poor grade of cement, lying, and malicious destruction of portions of the cement were made among the key players—the cement mason, the light keeper, and the lighthouse engineer in San Francisco. It is believed that Israel “was either lying or that the catch-water blocks…had been broken by force or with malicious intent (by Israel himself)”. The letter between Israel and Engineer H.H. Heuer further states “that investigation revealed the (6,400 square foot) catch-water structure to be perfect and satisfactory both in workmanship and material,” and that the basin was “the finest piece of work in the (lighthouse) district.” Thus began the career of the second keeper at the new light.

Keeper Brennan had eight children—five boys[30] and three girls. On school days, the oldest son, Dick, hitched up a sway-backed horse named Ping to the spring-wagon and they drove in over the hill to Roseville and to the only school. Once a week or so the family would go in for groceries. Cooking was done on coal-burning stoves (until the early 1940s when coal was replaced by butane).

Every few months the lighthouse tender Madrono[31] came down from San Francisco to bring kerosene and coal, and other lighthouse supplies and food provisions. Through the breakers and up to the beach came the pulling-boat [32]with casks and sacks that the Brennan children would help carry up the cliff. Toward sunset, father, and sometimes a son, would climb the winding stairs to the lantern to begin the nightly ritual. Always in the morning, the light was extinguished and tidying of the lantern was carried out, and the shades were drawn to protect the lens from sunlight.

A mail carrier came on foot from San Diego to deliver mail to Roseville, La Playa, and to the lighthouse, sometimes hurrying to beat high tide while running over Dutch Flats.[33] Electric bells with a hand-crank source of electricity were used in the keepers’ quarters and tower to alert each other of watch changes. Bells were also utilized between Ballast Point Light Station—the harbor light established in 1890 just inside the entrance to San Diego Bay, and razed in 1960—and Pelican Point, the local name given to the area where Point Loma’s landfall beacon stands. One light station alerted the other when a vessel was outside the harbor.

A local mariner suggested, that, “the telephone would be a welcome addition on the Point, and that if interested persons would get up a petition, they might induce the government to make this improvement.”[34] “Chicago” telephones were installed in the keeper’s quarters and to the signal in the lighthouse sometime before 1911, connecting the lighthouse to the city and beyond.[35]

Despite the shortage of water, keepers sought to make their windswept surroundings bloom. Palm trees, so prominent on the grounds of the light station today, rise nearly to the height of the 70-foot tower as reminders of their efforts. Captain Ken Franke notes that, “A light station was home to a light keeper and there was no committee to beautify it. Keepers were permitted to make it beautiful in any way they could. Some of them had green thumbs. They had a good carpenter shop on the Point, too.”[36]

“The entire place was like a big beautiful garden,” remembers Lexie Johnson, daughter of Keeper Milford Johnson and resident at Point Loma during World War II. “My dad had so many flowers. Roses. Poinsettias. Easter lilies. Most everything, as well as all kinds of vegetables and berries and fruit. He also had a big garden on the side of the hill near the old water catch basin. My father grew all the produce in the garden behind the house.”[37]

Electric cables were laid across San Diego Bay in 1909, but the wheels of electricity for the lighthouse were not set into motion until September 1924. The Superintendent of Lighthouses requested from the Commanding Officer at Fort Rosecrans that an extension of the power line be made to Point Loma Light Station.[38] The lighthouse was wired for electricity in 1928, but families continued to burn kerosene lamps in their quarters another seven years. Electrical beacons seemed impractical. Unwilling yet to yield to the modern innovation of electricity, a coal oil or acetylene light continued to flash Point Loma’s characteristic across the water.

Finally, in 1933, the electrical current was sent up the tower to a 500-watt globe.[39] The 200,000 candlepower of light and the slow revolution of the lens exhibited a 15-second flash, the beam lasting 1.5 seconds, followed by 13.5 seconds of darkness. A heavy iron weight, falling down the center of the tower, drove the clockwork that rotated the lens. From sunset to sunrise, keepers divided the night into four- to six-hour watches. The light was never left untended, for the clockwork that rotated the lens had to be wound once each watch—175 turns of the hand crank did the trick.

Routine was the constant lookout for fog and keepers were often busier maintaining the fog signal than at any other lighthouse chore.[40] Captain Israel’s fog signal at the old light was his trusty shotgun. If he sighted the masts of sailing vessels standing in too close, above low banks of fog, he would fire several shots in the air as a warning. Later on, the gongs from a one-ton fog bell at Ballast Point reached into the dreary shroud that sometimes hid the entrance into the harbor, but neither of Point Loma’s light stations ever had a fog bell. In 1913, a powerful compressed-air fog siren was installed. Driven by oil engines, it emitted a 3-second blast followed by 17 seconds of silence, as long as thick weather continued. The engine house was built near the foot of the light tower to shelter the new equipment, and a third keeper employed. A third, larger, dwelling had been added to the light station the year before.

Inside the engine house is a wooden partition fitted with panes of glass reminiscent of an old postal office. It is in this section of the small building where the radio beacon apparatus was installed on December 31, 1926. In September 1933, the siren was changed to the guttural call of a diaphone—a two-tone monition of dangerous cliffs and shoals.[41] Ken Franke recalls that “the diaphone at Point Loma hiccupped. Every fourth or so bee-oooop came out bee-op. It was meant to be that way. It had a beautiful sound that we could hear at Ballast Point if the wind was right.” The radio beacon, sent to ships at sea, was synchronized with the diaphone to give bearings and distance during disorientating weather.

Over the years, Point Loma Lighthouse was outfitted with modern equipment, as it had become available. The light was fully automated in 1973, and a last keeper—Coast Guardsman Ned J. Sacco—moved on.[42] Since that time, select Coast Guard families have occupied the dwellings overlooking one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world. The light station, and its modern optic, a VRB25 Vega Beacon— as unassuming-looking as a basic exterior garage light—are maintained by the United States Coast Guard Operations Center on San Diego’s Embarcadero nine miles away.[43]

Vessels have gone aground in spite of the lighthouse, but uncounted numbers have been saved from hidden shoals and jutting cliffs at this edge of America. In the days of lighted wicks, resident families found themselves unofficial custodians of the light in the tower; ears were tuned to the stranded cry in the surf below their homes. Still today, “boaters get into trouble out here, and we hear them yelling,” says former station resident, Kathi Strangfeld. “We know that the privilege of living at a lighthouse also requires us to be alert to these things.”[44]

Time has left its mark on Point Loma’s working lighthouse. The glass jewel in the tower—a modern marvel of the 1890s—stood motionless and unused its final five years in place. Commander Frederick Kenney recalls that in November 1997, “my friend, David Tam, and I were below the cliffs fishing. It was Veteran’s Day. David looked up at the tower and asked me if the lens didn’t rotate twenty-four hours. I told him it did. We stared at the light for some time and noticed the lens was not turning. I phoned Operations to come out and have a look at it.”[45]

In Commander David Tam’s words, “it was nearing dusk, and it felt funny not to have the sense of the light rotating and casting its light about. We climbed the stairs and noticed that the motor was still running but the lens wasn’t moving.”[46]

The Aids to Navigation Team was able to restart the rotation of the lens but determined that the chariot wheels[47] were “taking a beating” and in order to preserve them, the lens should be stopped. According to PO3 Gary Tingley, the corrosion and rust taking place in and around the lantern room are causing the floor and the top of the tower to lift—called rust jacking—and the wheels to grind an uneven path in their guiding yoke. (Seismic activity through the years may also have contributed to the lantern room being out of level and plumb.) A blue tarp, borrowed from the trunk of a Coast Guard vehicle, was draped over the quiet lens and secured by Bungee cords. Later, a more befitting zippered canvas cover replaced the tarp.

Coffin-like Crates and Resurrection of Point Loma’s Lens

“It is always a sad time when the lens is removed from a lighthouse, and careful consideration is given prior to approving such an action.” This sentiment was expressed by Chief Warrant Officer Joe Cocking[48] as the U.S. Coast Guard finalized plans to remove the lifeblood from Point Loma Lighthouse.

During the week of December 2, 2002, a team of experts—Cocking at the helm— assembled in San Diego to dismantle and remove the giant prism lens from its tower home. Point Loma did not go dark, however, as the modern Vega Beacon had taken on the work of the ailing lens in December 1997. San Diego’s own Aids to Navigation Team assisted in the project. Few others witnessed the historic occasion.[49]

Cocking reminds us that “lighthouses were built to be lived in and lenses were tended on a daily basis.” Since the automation of lighthouses (beginning in the early 1960s), regular care has been absent. The glazing compound, Litharge, applied to lenses, is deteriorating. This putty-like substance is used to encapsulate the wooden wedges within the lens framework at the joints of glass and metal.

In the weeks prior to the dismantling of the lens, screws were sprayed numerous times with a lubricating substance, called Kroil, for easier removal. Condition of the lens was documented with photographs and sketches made by Coast Guard personnel and photographer Kim Fahlen. Each of the approximately 2,270 prisms and twelve bull’s-eyes contained within the twelve panels had a detailed sketch made noting all chips, cracks, and breaks.[50] And finally, where only keepers before us had put fingers to glass, civilian hands gave the lens its final cleaning and polishing.[51]

The “New” Point Loma Lighthouse Project team installed a boom, or davit, at the lighthouse gallery level, and attached a block and tackle for hoisting and lowering tools, equipment, and ultimately, the lens and pedestal assembly. Panel by panel, the lens was disassembled within the stifling confines of the lantern and watchroom. Fahlen noted that “as the first prism panel was skillfully nudged and dislodged from its eleven panel mates, an audible and palpable release of torque, twisting, and tension…”[52] was observed.

Once a lens section was relieved of its grip of over one hundred sixteen years (the lens was manufactured in 1887), it was carefully swathed in bubble-wrap and packaged into a custom pine crate, prophetically coffin-like, and lowered to the ground. Each section weighed an estimated seventy-five pounds—lightweights compared to the heavy ironwork that followed. Cantilever, base ring, chariot wheel assembly, pedestal base, pedestal legs, clock case, upper guide roller assembly, and chimney. A secondary line was attached to each crate or iron section as a safety measure—two-line integrity in the event one line failed.

In just four days, crates of Fresnel lens and pedestal assembly were loaded onto the bed of a rental truck and taken away from the light station. The author followed the truck up the steep grade of paved road to a storage facility at Cabrillo National Monument, contemplating the dirt paths over which the glass had traveled on its arrival long ago.

The resurrection of Point Loma’s 3rd Order Fresnel lens was imminent. Cocking and his team of experts returned to San Diego early in 2004 to reassemble the six-foot glass giant, and its pedestal assembly, for safe-keeping and public display on the bluff high above its former home.

As part of CNM’s rehabilitation of the grounds around the old lighthouse, the National Park Service constructed a new building to house the lens, and other San Diego lighthouse treasures. The structure replicates the assistant keeper’s quarters that once stood in the shade of the old lighthouse.

“It is good that CNM has acquired the lens for public display, thereby keeping it close to its home, and in San Diego. These beautiful artifacts belong in a museum with a controlled environment and people who look after them,” Cocking says. There are no more manufacturers of giant glass lenses—modern optics replaced the need for classic Fresnel lenses. Most that remain are in the care of civilian ‘keepers’. San Diego has an impressive collection of four Fresnel lenses and competent keepers.[53]

The future of Point Loma’s leggy iron lighthouse tower is uncertain. According to Petty Officer Mark Brookmole,[54] “Modern channel markers dot the channel entrance. The Variable Rotating Beacon remained on the tower and a sound signal lets people know they’re getting close to the cliff, rocks, and Point. I guess it’s fortunate and unfortunate at the same time, but we’re doing the same thing at the lighthouse today, but without so much style.” For now, the tower will stand, erosion chipping away the integrity of the cliff beneath it.

In 2013, the VRB was put on standby as auxiliary signal and a modern, compact LED light array was installed, with a luminous range of 14 nautical miles. It emits one white flash every 15 seconds.

Though man has changed his role from keeper to controller, and a small lantern replaces the work of the giant prismatic lens, the sea’s relentless push to Point Loma’s shore may be all that remains the same at San Diego’s working lighthouse.


[1] Joe Brennan, “When the Lower Light Was New”, San Diego Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 52, October 1955. “In those days, Point Loma reached far out beyond the lighthouse, a lot further than it does now….” Point Loma’s shoreline undergoes continual erosion from the sea’s endless lashings. Photographs over the years demonstrate the changes taking place. In 1973, the Army Corp of Engineers, through private bids to local contractors, dumped boulders along the coast around the tip of Point Loma to curb the erosion process. The project was undertaken at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard. Telephone interviews by the author with ACE, Los Angeles, California. February 2001.

[2] F. Ross Holland, Jr. and Henry G. Law, The Old Point Loma Lighthouse, Cabrillo National Monument. Branch of Historic Preservation, National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, Denver, Colorado, p. 51. March, 1981. The Old Point Loma Lighthouse first used a 3rd Order fixed Fresnel lens that dispersed the light 360 degrees.

[3] San Diego Union, 2 April 1891. The lens dismantling at the old lighthouse began on March 31, eight days after the new light went into operation, dispelling the idea that this lens served in both lighthouses.

[4] 1892 Light List. The U.S. Lighthouse Board issued the annual Light List describing aids to navigation in the United States.

[5] San Diego Union, 6 July 1890.

[6] San Diego Union, 26 March 1891. Captain R.D. Israel describes much of the road to the new light station as a “trail”. Grading of the road did not occur until 1913 by use of mules yoked to a grading mechanism.

[7] Description of Light Station Point Loma, May 1915, p. 2. Department of Commerce, Light House Service. Retained by Gail Fuller, Curator, U.S. Coast Guard.

[8] San Diego Union, 19 October 1890.

[9] Index Slips, Bound in Letter Book No. 884, p. 650, 30 October 1890; No. 895, p. 264, 3 November 1890; No. not legible, 15 November 1890. Light-House Board, Treasury Department. National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland. Susan Abbott, Textual Archivist. These index slips refer to correspondence between lighthouse districts and the Light-House Board. The actual correspondence files for these early accounts of lighthouse activity were destroyed in a fire at the Department of Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. in the 1920’s.

[10] Thomas A. Tag, Historian, Author. “American Made Lenses.” The Keeper’s Log Fall 1997, pp. 20-26. On-line interview by author, 24 October 2000.

[11] Ibid. Light-House Board Index Slip, Bound in Letter Book No. 900, p. 174, 20 October 1890. Light-House Board, Treasury Department.

[12] On one of many visits to the light station by author, courtesy of station residents, the Strangfeld family, 21 October 2000.

[13] Columnist Neil Morgan reported in the San Diego Journal (15 October 1946) that Point Loma’s lens “…first served at Anclote Keys, Fla.”. When contacted by telephone on 7 November 2000, Mr. Morgan recalled that he had learned this from the keeper. A light keeper, while winding the lens clockwork, would undoubtedly have noticed the brass plate, still legible, but whether he knew for certain the lens had served Anclote Keys, or was only assuming so by the inscription on the door, is anybody’s guess. F. Ross Holland in Great American Lighthouses (Washington, D.C.: Preservation Press, 1989, p. 289) states that Point Loma’s lens served Alligator Reef Lighthouse in Florida. However, Florida’s first six Keys’ reef lighthouses, Alligator Reef among them, used 1st Order Fresnel lenses.

[14] Description of Light Station Anclote Keys, Department of Commerce and Labor, Lighthouse Service, 1912. This light station was deactivated in 1952 and abused by vandals, salt air, and neglect. The Anclote Key Preserve has formed an alliance with the State of Florida to restore the 110-foot skeletal tower and rebuild one keepers’ dwelling on its original foundation. The 267-acre island upon which the tower stands is open to the public, but accessible only by private boat. (Documents vary on the singular or plural of the word Anclote “Key”.)

[15] Holland and Law, The Old Point Loma Lighthouse, p. 72.

[16] One marble-inscribed panel from the pedestal door of lighthouse lens H-L330 is stored at Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, CA. In the upper right corner, it reads: Paris Exhibition 1889 2 GREAT PRIZES 1 GOLD MEDAL 1 BRONZE MEDAL. At the center, in two-inch lettering: Point Loma Lighthouse CALIFORNIA 3rd Order Multifocal Lens apparatus HENRY-LEPAUTE ENGINEERS PARIS 1889. Author visit to CNM, 25 September 2000.

[17] Kim Fahlen, Lighthouse Photographer, and Docent, Cabrillo National Monument. Interview by author, 15 October 2000. Also see Debbie Stetz, “In Search of the Mysterious Lens,” The Explorer, Newsletter of Cabrillo National Monument Foundation, Winter 1998-99, Vol. V, No. 8.

[18] San Diego Union, 3 February 1891.

[19] Jerry MacMullen confers with light keeper Captain W. A. Beeman. San Diego Historical Society, Memorandum to the Files, 6 September 1955. Also, a letter from the U.S. Coast Guard Office of the Commandant to the Director of Junipero Serra Museum, San Diego, 22 September 1955. The letter states that “the light was changed from fixed white to alternating (revolving) flashing red and white on April 1, 1899. It was changed from alternating flashing red and white to flashing white on June 29, 1912.”  The 1892 Light List reports “a flashing alternating red and white light.” No other account was located of the “New” Point Loma Lighthouse ever having a fixed white light, nor having signaled from the optic that belonged to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Because the station was simply “re-established” at a new site, it is considered as one reference of continual operation as is evidenced in the Department of Commerce Lighthouse Service Description of Light Station Point Loma, May, 1915. The form reads: Date of reservation, deed, lease, or permission to occupy: 1855. And, when last thoroughly rebuilt, repaired, or renovated: 1891. These two dates correlate to the years to two lights went into operation.

[20] 1994 Inventory of Historic Light Stations, U.S. Department of Interior, National Maritime Initiative, National Park Service Cultural Resources.

[21] Department of Commerce Description of Light Station Ballast Point, 1933, p. 11. Also see Mains’l Haul, Vol. 34, No. 2 and 3, Spring/Summer 1988. Ballast Point Light Station stood inside the entrance to San Diego Harbor in the lee of Point Loma. Two light stations were needed to replace the duties of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse: a seacoast light and a harbor light. Ballast Point Light Station served the harbor from 1890 until it was razed in 1960. Today, the site is occupied by the U.S. Navy’s Point Loma Submarine Base.

[22] According to the Department of Commerce Lighthouse Service Description Light Station Point Loma,

6 December 1911, the station used an Anaconda Prospecting Hoist “run by compressed air from signal” and made by Ottumwa Iron Works, Ottumwa, Iowa.

[23] Katherine B. Menz, Historic Furnishings Report, Point Loma Lighthouse, Cabrillo National Monument. December 1978.

[24] Ibid. Facsimiles of hand-written letters among Captain Robert D. Israel, the assistant keepers, and the 12th Lighthouse District are included in the Historic Furnishings Report.

[25] Holland and Law, Old Point Loma Lighthouse, pp. 69-70.

[26] James Mills, “Southern California’s First Light”, San Diego Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 47, October 1955.

[27] Holland and Law, The Old Point Loma Lighthouse, p. 39.

[28] San Diego Union, 7 February 1892. “Since Capt. R.D. Israel left the Point Loma Light… a successor has not been appointed. The assistant keeper (Haydon B. Cartwell) took charge, and the Captain’s youngest son, Joe Israel, has been performing the duties as assistant keeper. It was understood that he will remain there until a keeper is appointed.” George Patrick Brennan was appointed keeper on January 29, 1893. Also see Holland and Law, The Old Point Loma Lighthouse, p. 51.

[29] Brennan, “When the ‘Lower Light’ Was New”, p. 51.

[30] Patrick Brennan was keeper at Point Loma from 1892 until his death from illness in 1902. His son Joseph became a prominent figure on San Diego Bay, first as a tugboat operator, then as Harbor Master in 1918, or Port Director as he aptly renamed his position, and retired in 1948. He was instrumental in the filling in of the shoal that became Shelter Island.

[31] Brennan, “When the ‘Lower Light’ Was New.” Also, it is noted in Lighthouses & Keepers, Dennis L. Noble, that “from 1865 onward, lighthouse tenders took their names from trees, shrubs, or flowers.” Madrono is an evergreen tree with smooth red bark and edible red berries, and native to west North America. Madrono—sometimes spelled in the feminine as Madrona, the gender common to ships—was a steam-powered screw tender.

[32] A pulling boat was carried aboard lighthouse tenders. It had a round bottom, a fixed seat, and was propelled by long oars alone.

[33] Dutch Flats was an alluvium mass of nearly 500 acres in old San Diego that was filled in with dredge materials as the shipping channel was deepened. Today, it is the site of San Diego International Airport, or Lindbergh Field, and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Old La Playa was a thriving shipping and trading village along the shore, by today’s map, south of Kellogg Street to the fence of the military reservation. Landfill has changed the boundaries over the years. The small community of Roseville was a short distance north of La Playa.

[34] San Diego Union, 26 March 1891 states that “electric bells” will be put in from each cottage to the tower watch room…” Also, according to Ron Knappan, History of Old Telephones (Cresset Printing, 1978), “Electric bell is a general term to refer to any electric or non-electric bell. Non-electric bells were rung by pulling a rope whereas electric bells would operate by a hand-crank source of electricity…” Interview by the author, January 2000.

[35] San Diego Union, 24 February 1891. Also see Description of Light Station Point Loma, May 1915, p. 3. According to Knappan, “Chicago was like any other of the hundred different name-brand telephones in the early 1900s. Chicago started out in Chicago and moved to Elkhart, Indiana in about 1914. They were one of some fourteen major manufacturers of telephones.”

[36] Author interview with Ken Franke, 30 October 2001.  Son of Radford Franke, keeper at Ballast Point Light Station under U.S. Light House Service in 1930 until his retirement from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1957. “We were good neighbors with the families on the Point.” Also, the palm trees are not evident in photographs up to 1915, and are at the roofline of the houses by 1921. Obviously, they were planted sometime in between.

[37] Author interview with Lexie Johnson, 15 March 2001. Lexie’s father, Milford Johnson, was keeper at Point Loma Lighthouse from 1931 until retirement in 1952.

[38] On letterhead of the Department of Commerce, Lighthouse Service, 25 September 1924, specifications for the “extension of the 11,000-volt power line of the San Diego Consolidated Gas & Electric Co. … for the purpose of furnishing power and light for the operation of the fog signal and tower light …” Note that the lighthouse is situated at Fort Rosecrans, a U.S. Military Reservation.

[39] Author interview with PA1 Paul Rhynard, U.S. Coast Guard, Public Affairs Specialist, Alameda, CA, 17 October 2000.

[40] Jim Gibbs, Lighthouses of the Pacific (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., West Chester, PA, 1986).

[41] K. Sutton-Jones, Pharos—The Lighthouse Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Michael Russel Publishing Ltd., Wiltshire, UK, 1985). A diaphone is defined as a type of compressed air signal similar to a siren, but used a reciprocal piston and cylinder instead of a revolving disc or cylinder. The sound, or signal, emitted ended with a sharply descending and very powerful grunt. The diaphone was generally made of cast iron.

[42] Author interview with Frank J. Sacco, Utah,  31 January 2001. “My son Ned died in October 1987 from a heart attack. He was only 43.” Sacco was buried with full military honors after serving twenty-one years in the U.S. Coast Guard. Other keepers, not already mentioned, included William Lanez, 1902; Herbert Luff, 1903; Richard A. Weiss, 1904; William A. Beeman, 1908; M. Cady, 1920; John Kunder, 1921; George Cottingham, 1924-32; George Cobb, 1936-38; James Dudley, 1939-52; Douglas Withers, 1955; Thomas C. Calderwood, 1961; John Allen, 1973; James Williams, 1973.

[43] Author interview with PO3 Gary Tingley and SN Kevin Conrad, USCG Aids to Navigation Team, and visit to Coast Guard Operations Center, 23 October 2000; previous visit to Operations Center, and interview with MST Brian Puck, Marine Safety Technician, 28 January 2000. Today the Coast Guard displays a VRB-25 Vega Beacon—the main light in the tower. “This light looks like a standard lantern. Inside is a six-place lamp changer. When one lamp, or bulb, burns out, another automatically ratchets to the next position, or bulb.” These 100-watt lamps are visible at sea 21 miles. The Vega Beacon,  ELG-300/4 horn system, and lighthouse power controller are monitored through the Aid Control Monitoring System (ACMS). It allows a controller to query and control daily operations through a phone line and computer. Any beacon discrepancy is caught by ACMS, and an alarm is sent to the operations monitor. If the lighthouse power fails, it switches to the compact Lister/Lima generator maintained in the engine house. Should the Vega Beacon—attached to the railing of the gallery—malfunction or stop, a secondary 300MM lantern stands vigilant. Fresnel’s optic principles are demonstrated in plastic panels on these modern lights, not in glass. The fog signal has a back up plan, too—the FA232. USCG Aids to Navigation Team services the lighthouse each December.

[44] Author interview with Station resident, Kathi Strangfeld, 21 October 2000. “We had a boat in trouble a couple weeks ago, and a group of surfers in a boat were stranded just this past weekend.” At the time of the interview, a boat that had been thrown on the rocks by the surf and broken in half was visible from the tower.

[45] Author interview with Commander Frederick Kenney, United States Coast Guard Maritime and International Law, Washington, D.C., and at the time, resident of Point Loma Lighthouse Quarters. March 1998; on-line interview 31 October 2000.

[46] Author interview with Commander David Tam, United States Navy Medical Corp, San Diego, CA, 31 October 2000.

[47] Ibid. Kim Fahlen. Interview by author, 2 March 2001. “One of various methods used to give friction-less rotary motion for lighthouse optics was chariot wheels. This train of steel or brass wheels was built into a revolving frame fitted with lens panels, some weighing as much as four tons.” Point Loma has eight brass chariot wheels, 4 3/8 inches in diameter; the guiding yoke has sixteen wheels.

[48] Chief Warrant Officer Joe Cocking, U.S. Coast Guard Group, Mayport, FL. Interviews by author beginning November 2000. Cocking has been active in the preservation of Fresnel lenses and involved in major lens restoration projects across the United States for more than twenty-five years.

[49] The assembled team included:  CWO H. Tony Farr, Technical Advisor for the National Aids to Navigation School in Yorktown, VA; PO Rob Schaffer, Officer in Charge of Aids to Navigation Team Humboldt Bay, CA; Milton Waite, Engineering Petty Officer of Aids to Navigation Team Coos Bay, OR; and, PO Dave Curran, lead Damage Controlman aboard the Coast Guard cutter Cowslip, Astoria, OR. From Aids to Navigation Team San Diego, PO Mark Brookmole, Officer in Charge; BM2 Cassandra Peacock; EM3 Shaun Peterson; BM2 Daniel Holmes; MK3 Matt Wright. Civilian Photographer, Kim Fahlen; Documentation, Karen Scanlon.

[50] Documentation accomplished by Kim Fahlen, and Bob Munson, Historian, Cabrillo National Monument. 25, 26 November  2002. Fahlen also maintains the Fresnel lens in the lantern of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.

[51] Final cleaning accomplished by twin sisters Kim Fahlen and Karen Scanlon, 25 November 2002.

[52] Kim Fahlen, Securing the Point Loma Lighthouse Lens and Assembly, World Lighthouse Society Newsletter, January 2003.

[53] Cabrillo National Monument has in its possession the 3rd Order Fresnel lens from Mile Rock Lighthouse, which is displayed in the tower of the old lighthouse; the award-winning 3rd Order Fresnel lens originally ordered for “New” Point Loma Lighthouse and served in Chicago Harbor; the 3rd Order Fresnel lens that served “New” Point Loma Lighthouse; and Ballast Point Lighthouse’s 5th Order Fresnel lens manufactured by Sautter, Lemonnier & Cie. All were imported from Paris, France.

[54] Interview by author. PO Mark Brookmole, Officer in Charge, USCG Aids to Navigation Team San Diego, 26 November 2002.

Last revised 11-Jan-18