point fermin

point fermin

California lighthouses



Point Fermin Lighthouse - San Pedro Lighthouse

San Pedro--Located on a hilltop west of Pacific Avenue at Gaffey Street and Paseo Del Mar in Point Fermin Park is Point Fermin Lighthouse, one of the oldest light stations on the West Coast. Built in 1874 as a beacon to ships in one of the nation's busiest ports, the lighthouse once contained a Fourth Order fresnel lens which shed 2,100-candlepower light. The Victorian building in which it was housed was constructed of bricks with a wood frame and contained a cupola where the lens was mounted. Bricks and lumber shipped around Cape Horn were used to build the station and  three cisterns, a concrete oil house and a barn with one of the finest views of the Pacific Ocean. 


Ships and sea vessels had passed hundreds of years previous to the construction of a lighthouse at this location. The vast region stretching south to Long Beach was once known as the  Bay of Smokes for the cloud-filled air from fires used by local Indians for periodic rabbit drives. In 1602 Sebastian Vincaino renamed the area Bahia de San Pedro or San Pedro Bay. This bay became critical to trade and commerce as it served the needs of Pueblo de Los Angeles, the largest west coast settlement until San Francisco gained the title during the 1849 gold rush.  (The honor was short lived -- Los Angeles regained the top position as import/export center by the turn of the 20th Century).


Having a lighthouse in this strategic location was a wise investment.  Though railroads were being built, they were and continue to be part of the transportation network for shipping of goods throughout the United States. Local businesses rallied for construction of a lighthouse structure and they got it.


When it opened in 1874, its first occupants were two sisters, Mary and Ella Smith. Next came Captain George Shaw, an amiable fellow with many friends and who enjoyed late night parties at his unique abode. 25 years after it went into operation, a petroleum vapor incandescent lamp was installed in 1898.  And when rumors of its demise spread like wildfire around 1925, the light house added a new 6,600 candlepower electric light. The new apparatus projected a beam 22 miles to sea. 


The Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks Department contracted with Lighthouse Service in 1927 to operate the facility and the house became the residence of a superintendent, as it is today in the 21st Century.  The lighthouse no longer contains any type of light apparatus, however.  When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 194, the threat became very real that the West Coast could be next. The Navy seized the light house and dismantled the lantern room as well as removing the lens. They constructed a lookout tower which served the war effort for several years.


Thanks to the acts of several brave men, an attempt by the Coast Guard to tear down the entire lighthouse structure around 1960 were thwarted when the local activists succeeded in getting it listed in the National Registry of Historic.  Today, the public is free to stroll outside the gated grounds of the lighthouse at Point Fermin Park. One of the prettiest parks in Los Angeles offers a band stand, restrooms, picnic tables, vendor carts with snacks and a cetacean facility which provides counts of the migrations north and south of whale migrations from the incredible vista all can enjoy on their visit to the park.