Old Point Loma Lighthouse

San Diego, California | C.1855

Photo Credit: Marcus Ford

Sitting unassumingly along the coast of North San Diego Bay in California, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse watches over the Pacific,. According to local lore, the lighthouse and the land are named after a young Russian girl who survived a shipwreck and wandered ashore.  Loma is also a Spanish translation meaning “knoll or “hill”.

The story recounts that local residents took in the young girl and named her Loma. She grew into a young beauty, but misfortune fell upon her when a slighted suitor took her life. He fled to the Point, but met his own demise when he fell from the rocks. Since then, the area was dubbed Point Loma in her honor.

Legend aside, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse holds a rich history. Built in 1855, the Lighthouse gained funding after California was admitted into the Union and Congress approved the construction of lighthouses along the coast. Consisting of the main light tower and living quarters, the Lighthouse sat on a 400-foot cliff and employed ten light keepers over its 36 year operation.

Robert Israel, a Pittsburg native, was the longest active light keeper staying on duty for 18 years. A veteran of the Mexican-American War, he traveled to California after the War and worked a slew of jobs including blacksmith, saloon owner, policeman and jailor before becoming light keeper. His wife Marie Arcadia Alipas became assistant keeper along with raising their four children at the Point.

Once holding the U.S. record for the lighthouse with the highest elevation, the light house is now decommissioned due to thick cases of  fog that often obscured the light from ships. Exceptionally foggy nights called for the light keepers to fire a shotgun to warn incoming ships of danger. By 1891, the light was deactivated and a new lighthouse was built at Point Loma’s southern tip. Today, the Lighthouse is a landmark and museum.

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