Lighthouse Friends Home Page
 Santa Barbara, CA    
Description: The site for the Santa Barbara Lighthouse was selected so that the light could serve the dual purpose of a sea coast light and a harbor light. In early 1856, George Nagle of San Francisco arrived in Santa Barbara with his family to build the lighthouse on a mesa roughly two miles west of the harbor. Similar in design to most of the early west coast lighthouses, the Santa Barbara Lighthouse was of the Cape Cod style, with the tower projecting from the middle of the gabled roof. Nagle, who received $8,000 for his work, used Indian labor and mostly local material to finish the lighthouse within the year. On December 1, 1856, a fixed red light was displayed from a fourth-order Fresnel lens.

The first keeper at the station was Albert Williams. After four years, he was removed from the office of keeper and tried his had at farming nearby. After a string of three, short-term keepers, the position was again offered to Williams in 1865. He declined, but his wife Julia accepted. Since the station did not have a fog signal, Julia was able to maintain the light by herself, while raising three boys and two girls.

Santa Barbara Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
In its 1868 report, the Lighthouse Board noted some modifications that were made to the lighthouse. As the cellar was prone to flooding during the winter rains, its floor was torn up, a drain was installed, and a new brick floor was laid. A "storm-house" was also built over the kitchen door to afford protection from the elements, and the stove-pipe which passed through the roof was replaced by a brick chimney as a safety measure.

Julia Williams tended the light for more than forty years, and during that time the only two nights she was absent from the lighthouse were when she attended the weddings of two of her sons. As the water supply at the station was often insufficient, Julia would frequently take the station's horse to the nearest stream to fetch water. Once there, Julia would give her children a bath if needed and then fill up two wooden buckets with water. More than once, the mare threw off the heavy buckets, but Julia would patiently refill them and give the horse a lump or two of sugar to calm her down.

In 1893, a fifty-foot-deep well was dug near the lighthouse to augment the water supply. The following year an iron windmill was erected over the well to feed water into a 5,000-gallon cistern that sat atop a substantial foundation and was connected to the dwelling and grounds by pipes.

In 1905, Julia fell and broke her hip. Thinking it was only a minor injury, she continued to work for a few days, but soon had to be hospitalized. The fall brought an end to her lightkeeping career at the age of 81.

The following recommendation was first contained in the Lighthouse Board's annual report for 1894, and then regularly repeated until 1904. "The light-house at this station was built in 1856. It is of brick, with the outer wall stuccoed. The light is shown from an old-fashioned lantern, with triangular-shaped glass, built on top of the dwelling. The structure is unsightly and uncomfortable, and in winter the walls are damp. To put this building in good repair would cost as much, if not more, than to build a new modern structure. This can be done, it is estimated, for not exceeding $7,500, and it is recommended that an appropriation of that amount be made therefor."

As Congress failed to provide funding, it wasn't a new lighthouse but rather Mother Nature that did in the old structure. On June 29, 1925, a severe earthquake shook Santa Barbara. It seems that most earthquakes strike in the early morning, and this one did too, hitting at 6:45 a.m. Raymond Weeks, the acting keeper and son of the late Keeper Harley A. Weeks, was thrown from his makeshift bed in a storage building, where he had been forced to spend the night due to the large number of relatives that had spent the night after a gathering the previous evening. Concerned for his family's safety, Weeks ran to the lighthouse and ushered everyone outside. Just moments later, the tower and lantern came crashing down, followed soon by the walls of the small dwelling. The Fresnel lens was shattered, and the structure was a total loss, but everyone escaped injury other than serious fright and slight bruises. The succinct entry in the station's logbook for that day was: "Earthquake at 6:45 a.m. Tower and building down," but it must have been entered later as Raymond H. Weeks, acting keeper of the light since his father passed away in March 1925, didn't find the logbook until July 6.

A temporary acetylene light, exhibited from a frame tower, replaced the lighthouse on July 3rd and served until a more permanent tower was erected in January 1928. The beacon that was used atop the tower at Santa Barbara from 1935 to 1977 is now on display at Point Vicente Lighthouse.

Head Keepers: Albert J. Williams (1856 1860), Rafiel Guirado (1860), Charles Talma (1860 1861), S. R. J. Sturgeon (1861 1865), Julia F. Williams (1865 1905), Caroline Morse (1905 1911), George A. Hussey (1911 1913), Harley Alonzo Weeks (1913 1925), Caroline Weeks (1925), Raymond H. Weeks (1925 1943).


  1. Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993.
  2. U. S. Coast Guard Historian's Office website.

Location: Located on the mesa in Santa Barbara.
Latitude: 34.39626
Longitude: -119.72291

For a larger map of Santa Barbara Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.

Travel Instructions: From Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, take the Carrillo Street exit and go west towards the ocean. Near the summit of the hill, Carrillo Street turns into Meigs Road. Follow Meigs Road towards the ocean until you see Lighthouse Place on your right. This is the entrance to the active Coast Guard compound where the light is located. Distant views of the light are available from areas around the compound, which is closed to the public.

The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Grounds/tower closed.

Find the closest hotels to Santa Barbara Lighthouse

Notes from a friend:

Kraig writes:
I spent four years in graduate school at the University of California at Santa Barbara, but never ran across this lighthouse during that time. I'm sure I must have driven by it numerous times, but it isn't exactly a lighthouse that attracts a lot of attention.

See our List of Lighthouses in California

The lighthouses The Maps Our friends Lighthouse Resources Lighthouse Events Lighthouse Store Lighthouse Posters
Copyright © 2001-
Send us an e-mail - please note that is not affiliated with any lighthouse

Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.