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 Point Vicente, CA    
Lighthouse accessible by car and a short, easy walk.Lighthouse open for climbing.Interior open or museum on site.Photogenic lighthouse or setting.Lighthouse appeared in movie.Boo! Lighthouse haunted.Active Fresnel Lens
Description:
Point Vicente Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The Palos Verdes Peninsula is the most prominent coastal feature between Point Loma to the south and Point Conception to the north. When Captain George Vancouver sailed along its shores in 1793, he named the southwest tip of the peninsula Point Vicente, in honor of his friend, Friar Vicente of the Mission San Buenaventura.

Despite the point's prominence, funding for a lighthouse to mark this turning point into the harbors of San Pedro and Long Beach was not approved until 1916, when Congress appropriated $80,000 for a light and fog signal. Delays in acquiring the eight-acre parcel of land postponed construction until 1922, and then the high cost of material and labor further delayed the project until 1924. A United States district attorney had prepared data for a condemnation suit for the desired parcel before the land company made a satisfactory offer to the government. It appears the government was also considering placing the light offshore for on February 14, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order reserving the largest of the rocks of Point Vicente for lighthouse purposes.

The site on the point was fully acquired in 1922, but the fog signal was not activated until June 20, 1925, and the light atop the sixty-seven-foot cylindrical Point Vicente Lighthouse was not exhibited until April 14, 1926.

By this time, gone were the days of oil lamps and weight-driven clockworks. Instead, a 500-watt lamp was used inside the lighthouse's third-order clamshell Fresnel lens, which was transferred from a light station in Alaska after forty years of service there. The lens was manufactured around 1886 in Paris, France, by Barbier, Benard and Turenne, the oldest lens making company in the world. Due to the tower's position on a high bluff, the actual height of the lens' focal plane is 185 feet. The revolving lens produced the repeating light characteristic of 0.3-second flash, 4.7-second eclipse, 0.3-second flash, and 14.7-second eclipse.

An electric plant was installed at the station for furnishing the current for the lighthouse and and fog signal. Besides these navigational aids, the station also had three frame keeper's dwellings, with tile roofing and a stuccoed exterior, and a 12,000-gallon redwood water tank for fire protection. The total cost of the station was $102,871.

The light source was dimmed during World War II to avoid aiding the enemy. After the war, nearby residents complained about the bright flashes when the light was returned to its normal power, so the landward side of the lantern room was painted an opaque, pearly white. The light from the rotating lens seen through the opaque tower room windows created, for some, the illusion of a woman pacing the tower's walkway and gave rise to Point Vicente's "Lady of the Light," yet another lighthouse ghost story. Some said the ghost was the spirit of a woman who leaped into the sea when her lover was lost in a shipwreck off the point. In 1955, a thicker coat of paint ended the spirit's nightly romp around the tower, and the ghost has not been seen officially since.

Aerial view of Point Vicente Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy Cliff Graham
Although automated in 1971, the station, complete with its three keeper's quarters and a fog signal building, still houses Coast Guard personnel. Tourists are allowed to climb the tower's seventy-four steps during an open house held monthly by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The original Fresnel lens still revolves in the lantern room, producing two white flashes every twenty seconds. Powered by a 1,000 watt bulb, the light is rated at 437,000 candle power and can be seen up to twenty miles at sea.

Head Keepers: Anton Trittinger (at least 1930 at least 1940).

Photo Gallery: 1 2 3

References

  1. Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993.
  2. Point Vicente Lighthouse pamphlet.

Location: Located in Rancho Palos Verdes at 31550 Palos Verdes Drive West, approximately 15 miles west of Long Beach.
Latitude: 33.74193
Longitude: -118.41076

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


Travel Instructions: From the southern end of Interstate 110, follow Gaffey Street south through San Pedro roughly two miles to 25th Street. Turn right on 25th street. Follow 25th Street 2.7 miles until it turns into Palos Verdes Drive. The lighthouse is located at 31550 Palos Verdes Drive West, which is roughly 4.5 miles from the point where 25th Street becomes Palos Verdes Drive.

Point Vicente Lighthouse and the surrounding grounds are closed to the public, except for the second Saturday of each month when the tower and a small museum in the fog signal building are open for tours between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. In March, the lighthouse is open on the first Saturday instead of the second Saturday. If your visit does not fall on a Saturday when tours are offered, the tower can still be viewed through the fence surrounding the Coast Guard compound, or a more distant, but perhaps more spectacular view including the high bluff on which the lighthouse stands can always be had from the Point Vicente Interpretive Center. For recorded information regarding lighthouse visits, call (310) 541-0334.

The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Grounds/tower open during tours. Dwellings closed.

Find the closest hotels to Point Vicente Lighthouse

Notes from a friend:

Kraig writes:
Point Vicente Lighthouse and two of the nearby buildings appear in the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor during the scene where Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) first meets Rafe (Ben Affleck) after thinking that he had been killed in Europe. Evelyn is also shown earlier in the movie walking outside the lantern room reading a letter from Rafe while the Fresnel lens slowly turns.

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