Point Loma Lighthouse Quick Facts

George Bernard Shaw summed up lighthouses in a nutshell:

“I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse.      They were built only to serve. They weren’t built for any other purpose.”

At Cabrillo National Monument we use the Old Point Loma lighthouse to honor the memory of a class of men and women who brought an incredible sense of dedication and responsibility to what was truly a 24/7 job, usually in isolation, with no days off, no sick leave, and no pensions.

The Lighthouse is restored to its appearance in 1887. In that year the lighthouse was first painted white to protect the sandstone it was constructed of from further deterioration caused by wind and marine layer moisture. NPS has to continue to keep the structure painted white for the same reasons.


Sperm oil 1840s-54
Colza/Rapeseed oil 1850s-67 (rapeseed is a form of mustard)
Lard oil 1867-1882
Kerosine (mineral oil) 1882-91

A 3rd Order burned 7 ounces of kerosene an hour. This works out to 44 percent of a gallon per hour. Rule of thumb: the lamp burns half a gallon of  kerosene per hour.

158 candle power (3 concentric wicks, Argand lamp)

+ Fresnel lens = 19,000 candlepower = 238,754 Lumens = 240 60 Watt light bulbs.
A modern standard white incandescent 60 Watt light bulb produces 825 Lumens

422 feet above sea level, focal plain 463 feet

Received 3rd Order originally planned for Humboldt

Tin roof (painted red) 1855-66

Shingle roof 1866+
Tower painted red until 1887, black after that
Building unpainted until 1887, white after that

First eight:

Alcatraz                                   Point Conception
Fort Point                                Point Loma
Faralones                                 Humboldt
Point Pinos (Monterey)           Cape Disappointment (in Washington)

Construction began 1854
Completed June 1855
Lit November 15, 1855

First Cistern was 1,200 gallons in Lighthouse basement with pump

Second Cistern may have been constructed 1858 (SD Union notes that on November 27, 1858 a man had arrived “to build a new water tank”)

Third Cistern designed 1881 (Gutheil plan) completed Jan 1883

Jenkins (Keeper November 23, 1867- April 24, 1871) erected the flagpole of his own volition and “was proud to fly the national colors on special State Occasions”; it was still there as of 1888. His wife Elizabeth served as Assistant Keeper.

The storage building was in existence by at least 1873

In 1875 authorization was given to create Assistant Keepers Quarters in it. This was completed in 1876 and was still considered inadequate.

Robert Israel appointed Asst. Keeper May 20, 1871. His son Joseph Peary Israel was born 1871 so Maria and the kids lived in old town with grandmother Juana (their aunts were there as well). Maria and the baby appear to have been living at the station by April 1873.

Robert Israel was appointed Keeper June 27, 1873, and his wife as Assistant Keeper.

The barn was authorized in 1875, the same year the station was authorized a horse and
wagon “for transport of supplies”  (U.S.L.H. Board  annual report)

Barn completed 1876. It appears bigger than the Gutheil plan indicates as later photos show its east side connected with the picket fence off the southeast corner of the catchment basin. Yet the south photo indicates it matches our footprint.

The horse and wagon were deleted in 1880 and replaced by a boat. This would explain how the barn could be used for dances in the 1880s.

In 1880 the population of San Diego was 2,637
In 1885: ~5,000
Boom of 1887: 35 to 40,000
In 1890: decreased to 16,159

Uniform authorized 1883

Extinguished March 22, 1891

New Point Loma and Ballast Point both lit March 23, 1891

Before the end of March 1891 the lens had been dismantled and shipped to the Lighthouse Depot in New York.

Removal of the barn was authorized in 1895.

By about 1900 the AKQ appears to be gone.
In 1906 the lighthouse was standing empty.
By 1913 the AKQ was definitely gone.
By 1913 the shed was gone and the building was standing empty.

In 1913 the Order of Panama proposed a 150 foot statue of Cabrillo, to include an Army radio station in the pedestal.

Presidential Proclamation October 10, 1913 set aside a half acre with lighthouse as Cabrillo National Monument

Army made $350 of repairs in 1915 to the lighthouse and after 1916 allowed its use as married enlisted quarters

Sometime in the 1920s it may have been partially used as a radio station and a radio mast  was erected.

Mrs. H.E. Cook, widow of an Army Sergeant, lived in the lighthouse from 1921 to 1934 and ran a small concession in it. Mrs. Cook was known as “old one eye” in reference to her one eye having been blinded as a result of injury.

It was noted that Mrs. Cook was a true friend of the local enlisted men.

It was noted that in 1930 the two outside cisterns were still visible as were portions of the deteriorated Catchment Basin.

In 1933 Cabrillo National Monument was removed from Army control and turned over to the National Park Service. Mrs. Cook was evicted by order of Col. White of the NPS in 1934. Repairs were completed in 1935 and included the bulldozing of the top of the second cistern and the remains of the Catchment Basin.

In 1935 a combined custodian and concessionaire Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Rock were installed in the light house. The parlor was used as the monument office, the kitchen became a tea room, while Clifford and Mildred Rock lived in the two rooms upstairs where visitor traffic to the lighthouse lantern precluded any privacy. The bathroom was in the basement which was equally inconvenient.

1941 saw the closure of the monument to public visitation for the duration of World War II.

Holland (p.93) says the lighthouse was a signal station for the first year of the war and was then used for storage. Voyd Beights (oral interview p.86), stationed at Point Loma as Signalman I Nov. 1941 to Sept. 1945, says  it was used for two years and notes the south bedroom was used as an Army HQ while the north bedroom was Navy command; the parlor was used for storage and as a sleeping area for duty personnel. The kitchen was used to prepare rations and coffee on a hot plate.

On November 11, 1946 the lighthouse was returned to NPS control and reopened in 1947.

10 stairs from main floor to basement

23 stairs from main floor to watch room

8 rungs on ladder from floor of watch room to lantern room

Last revised 11-Jan-18