Lighthouses of Los Angeles County

Lighthouses of Los Angeles County
The coastline from the southern to northern end of Los Angeles Country runs for 72 miles, and most of it was largely undeveloped until after World War II. For the first century of California statehood, this area was unconnected to the rest of Los Angeles, and was considered quite rural. Because so much trade between California and the rest of the United States was conducted by boat, protection was needed from the treacherous ecosystems of rocks, fog, and peninsulas. Two lighthouses still stand to remind the visitor of this romantic period of history.

The older of the two is the Point Fermin Lighthouse, located in the city of San Pedro. The light, which is integrated into the keeper’s quarters, is housed in one of the only three “Stick Style” Victorian buildings still standing. Built in 1874, the light was maintained by a series of keepers until 1927, when it was electrified. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the light was blacked out to protect the coast from warships; the tower was used as a lookout for the duration of World War II. The building was used as a residence for park workers for many years after the war, finally being restored to its original Victorian plan in 1974, when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Point Fermin is usually open from 1p to 4p every day except for Monday. Guided tours are given several times a day; the facility may also be toured by oneself. There is no charge to visit, but donations will help to maintain the attraction. The lighthouse is close to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, allowing visitors to the area to make a full day out of the trip to out-of-the-way San Pedro.

Up the coast in Rancho Palos Verdes, the Point Vicente Light is still a working facility. Open to the public one Saturday each month of the year, from 10a to 3p, the attraction is free of charge. Built in 1926, it was run by the United States Lighthouse Service until that organization merged with the US Coast Guard in 1939. The facilities and light were maintained by individuals until 1971, when the 67 foot tower was automated. Today, the turret houses a third-level Fresnel lens. Close by, the Point Vicente Interpretive Center has picnic areas, a museum with information on the yearly migrations of the gray whale, and a gift shop.

Both lighthouses are rumored to be haunted, Point Fermin by male ghost yearning for his lost wife, and Point Vicente by a female ghost searching for a husband lost at sea. Whether or not these stories are true, the fact remains that both facilities present beautiful opportunities for photographers, couples wanting to wander in a romantic location, or families looking for a unique way to spend an afternoon. While somewhat out of the way, both are well worth the drive.

Point Fermin Lighthouse: 807 Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro.
Point Vicente Lighthouse, 31550 Palos Verdes Drive West, Rancho Palos Verdes.

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