Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Point Vicente

Point Vicente

Location: 31501 Palos Verdes Drive West S,
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275

Directions: From Los Angeles, travel south on Highway 1 to Palos Verdes Estates. Continue south along the coast on Palos Verdes Blvd, a quarter mile south of the southern end of Hawthorne Blvd.The lighthouse grounds are on a Coast Guard station and usually closed to the public, but the lighthouse can be clearly viewed from the gate and a nearby park.

Coordinates: 33°44′31″N 118°24′38″W33.7419°N 118.4106°W
Year first lit: 1926
Active: Yes
Deactivated: No
Automated: 1973
Keepers dwelling: 3 keeper’s quarters,2 Stories, Mission Revival, 2 GARAGES, RADIOBEACON, OIL HOUSE W/WINDOWS
Foundation: Concrete
Construction: Plaster Reinforced Concrete
Tower shape: Cylindrical
Tower Height: 67ft
Focal plane: 185 ft
Original lens: 3rd order Fresnel, manufactured in France by Barbier & Bernard. 1886 range: 20 miles
Current lens: 3rd order Fresnel
Fog Signal: Fog Signal Building fog horn
Characteristic: 2 white flashes every 20s
Admiralty: G3886
ARLHS number:
USCG number: 6-0170
Owner: U.S. Coast Guard
Site manager: U.S. Coast Guard


This was an interesting trip; we left San Diego early morning and made our way to Los Angeles. Again Jean used her negotiating skills to book our hotel. We checked into our room and set off to find Point Vincent, Point Fermin and Los Angeles harbor. We had a gps system so we thought we were set. The address was plugged into the unit and we set to follow the robotic voice to our destination. We thought we were doing well, We arrived at Palos Verdes Drive West and headed north, but we missed our turn off, because the gps was silent. We trusted our gps unit, and it led us up into the Los Verdes hills.

We drove for a bit, and I had distinct feeling as we moved from the coast that we were going in the wrong direction. We stopped and I got out having a look around, we were high up in the hills and in a luxury housing estate. I could see down to the coast but could not see any sign of a lighthouse. Jean spotted some workers and asked if they knew of the lighthouse, they looked at us as if we were from another planet. We got back in the MDX and decided we would head for Point Fermin, and maybe from there get some guidance for the directions to Point Vicente.

Jean turned the SUV around and headed back down the hill, we got back to Palos Verdes Dr and headed south, after a few minutes Point Vicente Light appeared in our view, we were so close and yet so far away. It located near the interpretative center; I could have kicked myself for not paying attention to my Internet directions. We pulled into the parking lot and I retrieved my cameras. This lighthouse was closed to the public so my shots were limited to outside the fence, I will return in the future when the lighthouse is open to the public, for now I will accept my good fortune of finding this light.

Sitting out there on the south west point of Palos Verdes Peninsula, it looked like a postcard scenic jewel. With blue skies, lush green lawns, palm trees and an emerald ocean in the background, I am sure this is a spot for photographers and artists.

It was a year later when I returned to this lighthouse. I made it with my brother Edward. We set out on a Friday afternoon and after 10.5 hours we made it to Los Angeles. This was a trip to remember. We filled his vehicle with gas in Dublin, Ca. A few snacks and we were on our way. Our first obstacle was the Altamont Pass, it took forever to cross. Our second Obstacle was Bakersfield, apparently our tax dollars was hard at work. They shut down a lane, and we crawled ever so slowly past Bakersfield. Soon it was dark, and as we motored along Highway 5, we where flashed by passing trucks. Eddie pulled into the side and we examined the vehicle, only to discover that our right tail light was not working. There was nothing we could do, so gingerly continued our journey, Eddie would intermittently put on his emergency blinkers when other drivers would get too close. Our final obstacle was highway 405, we missed the exit and our GPS quickly got us back on route and into the standstill traffic. Around mid-night we pulled into the Embassy suites in Segundo. We headed for our room only to be greeted by a loud humming sound; I headed for the front desk and asked to be changed. The staff obliged and was surprised that I complained about the sound. Finally I had a glass of wine and retired for the night.

The next morning we arose refreshed and ready for our trip to Point Vicente. Again it was a little adventure getting to the lighthouse, we started off in the wrong direction as the GPS was having problems picking up a satellite signal, and we pulled into a shopping center and waited for a signal. Finally we were headed in the right direction. About 15 mins later we were at Point Vicente. I retrieved my camera bag and headed into the light station. At the front gate, we were greeted by a coast guard person, he looked like he was only a child, and maybe he was a cadet.

I was glad at the opportunity to make my around the grounds, I tried to take as many pictures from different perspectives, I entered the lighthouse and made way to the top. It was hot inside the tower; at the top the lantern was still operational, I watched as the mechanical mechanism from the past made its rotations, a big lens with is well maintained prisms, in its cast brass frame being rotated by a small motor at its base. It’s a credit to USCG for the maintenance of this lens. I retreated from the tower and spent awhile more in the grounds, I was happy I made this journey and another entry to my journal as I continue my “Journey to the Light”, next A return trip to Point Fermin.


Before the installation of lighthouses on the Pacific coast, many ships and seamen went to their watery graves on its rocky schoals. Shipmasters deplored this dangerous stretch of coastal water.

1790: Captain George Vancouver, an officer of the British Royal Navy. Aboard his 90 ft sloop “Discovery”, he charted North America’s Pacific coast region for England. He named the Point after Friar Vicente of Buenaventura Mission, who was friendly to him on his expedition.

1916: In response to a petition from ships masters Congress appropriated $80,000 for a light and fog signal.

1922: The site on the point was fully acquired; it was a site on 130ft cliff Palos Verdas

1925: June 20, the fog signal was activated, 3 keepers dwelling and outbuildings completed. The fog horn could be heard upto a distance of 3 miles

1926: May 1st, 1000 watt bulb focused through a 3rd order Fresnel lens could be seen for the first time. Its range was over 20 miles; the lens is made up of hand-ground prisms held in place by a cast brass frame. It was transferred from a light station in Alaska after 40 years of service; The 67 ft cylindrical, masonry light tower perched on 130 ft cliff at Point Vicente serves as a coastal beacon and a guide to vessels navigating the entrance to San Pedro Harbor. It has the distinction of being one the last lighthouses constructed on the west coast. It shares that feature with Point Diablo Light, constructed in 1923, and the Long Beach Light, which built in 1949. Similar in design to the lighthouse on Anacapa Island.

Continue reading on  Point Vicente Lighthouse - Los Angeles lighthouses
1934: Radio station & Navigation Beacon added

1939: Lighthouse is transferred to US Coast Guard

1940’s: During World War II, the peninsula was guarded by heavy fortified weapon emplacements of Fort MacArthur. The light was dimmed, a 25 watt light replaced the 1000 watt light, and the windows where covered with black out curtains. The military did not want the lighthouse to used as an navigation aid to the Japanese. After the war, the 1000 watt light was returned to the lantern room, the restored beam became a nuisance to the neighbors and a hazard to motorists, the interior of the lantern room windows was painted a pearly white on the side facing inland, to avoid the complaints of its neighbors and motorists over the bright rotating flashes into homes and blinding drivers at night. This effort produced an illusion from the light of the rotating lens, of a woman pacing the tower's walkway and gave rise to Point Vicente's "Lady of the Light,"  the wife of a light-keeper who stumbled from the edge of a cliff,another lighthouse ghost story 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. A heavier coat of paint ended the lady’s nightly prance around the tower but the stories persist.

1942: Radio distress monitoring capability was added.

1971: The Lighthouse was manned until automated equipment and remote control operators took.

1979: November 17, Point Vicente Lighthouse was added to the National Registry of Historic Sites.

1980: The last radioman locked the doors. For many years, Coast Guard radiomen at Point Vicente monitored the international distress frequencies, ready to help any vessel in need. The task was transferred to another station. The radio station buildings are still  existing, and the radio equipment is outdated. The current keeper "Lighthouse Keeper" Eric Castrobran, USCG Auxiliary

Today Point Vicente Light emits it's beacon across the Catalina Channel. Electronic sensors and automated controls activate the fog horn and replaced most of the light keepers duties. Far from being abandoned, the housing facility is home to regular Coast Guard personnel assigned to nearby ships, stations and offices. The radio station is manned by Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers who are responsible for the maintenance lighthouse in addition to tracking distress calls from boaters in the Catalina Channel, and auxiliary aircraft patrolling offshore waters on weekends.


Palos Verdes
Coast Guard Lighthouse
Inventory of Historic Light Stations
California Lighthouses
Wikipedia Point Vicente Light


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

Keywords: Point Vicente Lighthouse, Lighthouse, lighthouse pictures, Palos Verdes Peninsula,California, directions, location, photographs, Journal, history, San Diego, LighthousesOfCalifornia, Sean O’Cairde

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