The original Point Loma Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located on the Point Loma peninsula at the mouth of San Diego Bay in San Diego. 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.
History : On September 28, 1850, just 19 days after admitting California to the Union, Congress appropriated $90,000 to construct lighthouses along the California coast. A second appropriation of $59,434 was made in 1854 to complete the job. Lighthouses were designated for Alcatraz Island, Point Conception, Battery Point, Farallon Island, Point Pinos and Point Loma.
A site was chosen in 1851 near the summit of Point Loma. The contract was given to the Washington, D.C. company Gibbon and Kelley. The local supervisor was William J. Timanus.
Construction was begun in April 1854, when a shipment of materials arrived from San Francisco. The lantern and lens had to be ordered from Paris and arrived in August 1855. The lighthouse was completed by October 1855 and was lighted for the first time at sunset November 15, 1855. It was designated light number 355, of the Twelfth United States Lighthouse District.
While in operation the lighthouse had the highest elevation of any lighthouse in the United States. However, the location on top of a 400-foot cliff meant that fog and low clouds often obscured the light from the view of ships. On foggy nights the lighthouse keeper would sometimes discharge a shotgun to warn ships away. On March 23, 1891, the flame was permanently extinguished and the light was replaced by the New Point Loma lighthouse at a lower elevation.
In 1984, the light was re-lit by the National Park Service for the first time in 93 years, in celebration of the site’s 130th birthday. More than 3,000 people attended the celebration, including more than 100 descendants of former lighthouse keepers Robert and Maria Israel.
Life at the lighthouse: The Old Point Loma Lighthouse was not just the housing for a light; it was also the home of the people who took care of the light. The keepers and their families lived in the lighthouse. Visitors can now view some of the rooms to see what their life was like. The lighthouse was a bustling family home. The Israel family, including their three surviving boys and a niece, all grew up there. They gardened, kept horses, and raised chickens, pigs and goats. The children rowed across the bay to Old Town each day for school. People from town would sometimes drive by horse and buggy over a dirt road (now Catalina Boulevard) to picnic and visit the lighthouse and its keepers.
Haunted? The lighthouse is said to be haunted. There are reports of of heavy foot steps coming from upper rooms, cold spots, heavy breathing, lights turning on. This site is no longer considered an “active haunted” location though.