Everyday for 36 years, Captain Robert Decatur Israel, the lightkeeper of Old Point Loma Lighthouse would ascend the narrow winding staircase to the glass tower at dusk. With an outstretched arm, he’d light the pilot and adjust the flame that lit the passage for sailors returning to San Diego Harbor. On a clear day, the coastal beacon could be seen from 25 miles out.
But there was fatal flaw in the design. On March 23, 1891, the flame went out forever in favor of another lighthouse built closer to the Pacific Ocean–below the frequent fog and cloud levels–and under the original elevation of 422 ft.
The National Park Service has restored the lighthouse to its original 1855 glory, under the purview of the Cabrillo National Monument,
and protects its five foot French fresnel lens in a protective capsule on the ground floor.
A window through the prismatic lens offers a window to the San Diego harbor in the distance, and a second window back in time, where a volunteer in vintage costume brings lighthouse history back to life.