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 Los Angeles Harbor (Angel's Gate), CA    
Lighthouse best viewed by boat or plane.Lighthouse appeared in movie.
Description: Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse, also known as "Angel's Gate" light, welcomes ships into the harbor of the City of Angels, Los Angeles. Don't let the name confuse you, Los Angeles Harbor is nowhere near downtown Los Angeles, but is located in San Pedro, several miles south of L.A.'s cluster of skyscrapers.

Work on a breakwater to form a harbor at San Pedro began in 1899, and in 1907, the Lighthouse Board called for the construction of a lighthouse to mark its outer end.

A light and fog-signal on the outer end of the breakwater will be useful to coasters as well as to commerce to and from the present harbor of Wilmington (San Pedro) and which will spring up under the lee of the breakwater. It is expected that the concrete block forming the outer end of the breakwater will be finished in about one year, and it is recommended that the block be subjected to the storms of one year before the superstructure be commenced. The Board estimates that the proposed light and fog-signal, including quarters, can be built for $36,000, and it recommends that an appropriation of this amount be made therefor.

Congress appropriated the requested amount on March 4, 1911, and by July 1912, the structural steel framework was ready for erection on the forty-foot-square pierhead. The lighthouse was built around twelve steel columns and sits at the end of the 9,250-foot San Pedro breakwater. The base of the structure is octagonal and covered with steel plates, while the upper section is cylindrical and built using cement plaster on metal lath. The twelve columns, now covered with black pilasters, give the lighthouse a Romanesque feel. E.L. Woodruff, assistant superintendent of the eighteenth lighthouse district, designed the lighthouse and later received a Phebe Hobson Fowler Architectural Award for his work. No other lighthouse was ever built to this design.

Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The bottom story of the lighthouse originally housed the station's fog signal equipment along with water and fuel tanks, and the floor above this contained storage space and a bathroom. The top two stories of the tower, directly below the lantern room, held sleeping quarters for the keepers, whose families were housed on shore, while a kitchen, pantry, and living room were located on the tower's third story.

A fourth-order flashing bivalve Fresnel lens was placed in operation inside the tower's cylindrical, helical-bar lantern room on March 1, 1913. The lens produced a white flash every fifteen seconds using a incandescent oil-vapor lamp as its illuminating apparatus. The light had a focal plane of seventy-three feet and could be seen for fourteen miles.

The station's fog signal was a siren connected to a compressor powered by a gas engine. The siren originally emitted three blasts every sixty seconds in this manner: two-second blast, sixteen seconds silence, two-second blast, sixteen seconds silence, four-second blast, twenty seconds silence.

The original plan for the lighthouse was a wooden, square, two-story building like those constructed for Oakland Harbor and Southampton Shoals. Fortunately, the plans were changed and a more stout structure was built, as a wooden structure never would have survived the various forces which seemed bent on destroying the breakwater lighthouse.

An oil house, built of reinforced concrete and anchored to the breakwater, was completed on December 26, 1913, and just a few days later it received an awful pounding. Keeper George D. Jeffrey provided the following account on Monday, January 19, 1914 of a storm that struck the station.

Saturday night and early Sunday morning, during a terrific wind and sea which dashed over lantern, the watch room, living room, and engine room were flooded, and everything movable washed overboard, including launch and skiff. The new oil house is apparently undamaged, though entirely submerged all night.

There is no damage to this building as far as I can see, though it received an awful shaking. So severe were the shocks that it broke two mantles on light...and about half emptied the base of lens of mercury, spattering over lantern and downstairs. Expected any minute to have lens topple over, and at one time had grave doubts of building standing. By keeping one man as near lens as was safe, managed to keep light burning and lens moving.

For five days another year, the lighthouse was battered by large breakers, spawned by a gale. After the storm, the keepers dropped a plumb line from the lantern gallery proving their suspicion that the storm had given the tower a slight lean shoreward. Over the years, rust in the supporting columns has also contributed to the lighthouse's lean.

In another incident that occurred in the early 1930s, a keeper was startled one night, when a tremendous blow was delivered to the base of the tower. Scrambling to the window, the amazed keeper saw the silhouette of a large Navy ship, which had rammed the breakwater. The ship received damage to its hull and propeller and had to make a trip to Mare Island for repairs.

Long Beach was hit by an earthquake in 1933 that killed 115 people. The keeper of the L.A. Harbor Lighthouse at the time reported that it shook violently for about twenty seconds and that mercury slopped out of the pool used to float the lens, but no significant damage was done to the tower.

In 1965-1966, Raymond Wlascinski was stationed at Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse, where he was in charge of equipment maintenance. Wlascinski provided this black and white photograph of the lighthouse, noting that the building on the far left was used for paint and oil storage, while the two-story building adjacent to the lighthouse contained sleeping quarters for the crew. According to Wlascinski, the foghorns mounted atop the building would “shake your innards,” if you got too close.

Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy Coast Guard Museum Northwest
A welcome relief to the keepers’ daily chores arrived at the lighthouse one day in the form of a frisky California harbor seal that the crewmen named Charlie. The three-foot-long seal, probably about eight or nine months old, just climbed up the rocks one day, shortly after New Year’s in 1966, and made his way into the engine room.

In a newspaper article entitled “Charlie Good (Light) Housekeeping Seal,” Wlascinski was quoted as saying, “Lighthouse keeping can be lonely and tedious at times and spirits sure do peak up around here when that little critter comes calling.” During off-duty hours, the keepers would fish from the breakwater rocks to provide Charlie his next meal. Charlie was fond of bonito and rock bass, but when fresh fish wasn’t available, he quickly acquired a taste for bread, ham, and frozen fish sticks. In this photograph Raymond Wlascinski has his hand on Charlie, while Dave Aikens offers the seal a tasty morsel.

Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse has experienced several changes over the years. A radiobeacon was placed in commission at the station on May 21, 1926. As the community and "light noise" on the hills behind the lighthouse grew, a green translucent cover was placed over the lens in 1932 to change the characteristic from flashing white to flashing green. The old deep-throated two-tone fog horn, affectionately known to locals as “Moaning Maggie,” was replaced by a higher-pitched single-tone horn in 1959. The new horn, nicknamed “Blatting Betty,” was disliked by local mariners for years. The last major change for the lighthouse came January 1, 1973, when the lighthouse was automated. The final keepers departed thirty days later.

The original fourth-order Fresnel lens was removed from the tower in September of 1987 and donated to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in February of 1990.

Not wanting everyone aboard the cruise ships and other vessels that sail into the harbor to be welcomed by a “rust bucket of a lighthouse,” the Cabrillo Beach Booster Club launched a project to restore the tower. The group applied for and received funding from the Port of Los Angeles, thanks to a large settlement with a Chinese shipping company. Under a $1.8 million renovation that started in October 2011, the tower was encapsulated, sandblasted, and a zinc coating was added to reinforce the tower's steel base. The stucco that covers the upper two-thirds of the lighthouse was also repaired and painted.

Head Keepers: John Olsen (1913), George D. Jeffrey (1914 - 1915), Willard D. Miller (1916 - 1922).


  1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
  2. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Lighthouses, various years.
  3. Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses, Sharlene and Ted Nelson, 1993.
  4. U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office website.
  5. “San Pedro lighthouse renovation is flashing forward,” Matt Stevens, Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2011.

Location: Located at the end of a breakwater in the Los Angeles Harbor, approximately nine miles west of Long Beach.
Latitude: 33.7086
Longitude: -118.2515

For a larger map of Los Angeles Harbor (Angel's Gate) Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.

Travel Instructions: From the southern terminus of Interstate 110, proceed south on Gaffey street roughly 1.5 miles to 21st street. Turn left on 21 street, and then right on Pacific Avenue. After one mile, turn left on Stephen M White Drive and stay left to continue into Cabrillo Beach Park, where you can park and view the Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse at the end of the long breakwater. The breakwater is officially closed to the public, but you may see fishermen on it.

To get a bird's-eye view of the lighthouse, you can take a helicopter ride with Los Angeles Helicopters. The Port of Los Angeles website lists operators that offer harbor cruises that might pass near the lighthouse. Cruise ships that depart from The Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center in San Pedro will also pass by the lighthouse.

The lens from the L.A Harbor Lighthouse is on display at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, which is located at Berth 84, near the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Sixth Streets, in San Pedro. The museum can be reached at (310) 548-7618.

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

Find the closest hotels to Los Angeles Harbor (Angel's Gate) Lighthouse

Notes from a friend:

Kraig writes:
It is possible to walk the 1.5 miles out to the Angel's Gate Lighthouse, but I would call it more of an adventure than a walk. First, the spray from the waves crashing against the breakwater can soak you. In addition, in several places along the breakwater, the relatively smooth and level granite blocks are replaced with large boulders, which force you to leap around like a mountain goat. It will take at least 90 minutes for the journey, but several fishermen do it all the time, and if you happen to be out there when one of the huge cargo ships pass by, it can add to the experience. Since my trip out to the lighthouse, I have been informed by others that the breakwater is not officially open to the public. No Trespassing signs are posted on the breakwater, but fishermen can regularly be found beyond the signs.

I took a cruise to Mexico that departed from the Los Angeles Cruise terminal in 2008. I was hoping to get a good shot of the lighthouse from the top deck of the cruise ship, but we departed L.A. after sunset, and when we returned fog reduced visibility to about three feet.

The lighthouse can be seen in the movie Yours, Mine and Ours.

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