The Point Vicente Lighthouse
The Point Vicente lighthouse is located in Rancho Palos Verdes on the outcropping of land with the same name. Capt. George Vancouver, the English explorer, originally named the area Point Vincente in 1790 after the Friar of Mission Buenaventura. The name was changed to Point Vicente in 1933.
In 1916, the United States Congress approved the construction of a lighthouse at Point Vicente. Frank Vanderlip, Sr., who had acquired the entire Palos Verdes Peninsula in 1913, fought vigorously against this project, as he had planned to construct an artisan’s village at this location, modeled after an Italian seaside village named Neri. This fight lasted 5 years, and after the government threatened eminent domain action, the Federal government acquired the 8 acre site from Mr. Vanderlip.
The construction of the Point Vicente Lighthouse was completed in 1926, and consisted of 7 buildings, now including 3 houses which are Coast Guard residences. The most striking feature in the lighthouse is the classical third-order rotating Fresnel Lens located in the lantern. The original light house lens was actually created in 1886 in France, and after 40 years of service in a lighthouse in Alaska it was installed at the Point Vicente Lighthouse.The two million candlepower white light is developed from a fifteen-watt bulb focused through the handcrafted five-foot lens.The cylindrical tower is 67 feet tall, and the masonry structure is built on the edge of a 130-foot cliff. This places the center of the lantern 185 feet above the ocean, and because of this elevation, the beam can be seen twenty miles away.
For years, there have been rumors that the lighthouse is haunted. After World War II, nearby residents complained about the bright flashes from the lighthouse, and the landward side of the lantern room was painted an opaque, pearly white. The light from the rotating lens seen through the opaque tower room windows created, for some, the illusion of a woman pacing the tower's walkway and gave rise to Point Vicente's "Lady of the Light," yet another lighthouse ghost story. Some 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. In 1955, a thicker coat of paint ended the spirit's nightly romp around the tower, and the ghost has not been seen officially since.
Anton Trittinger was the lighthouse keeper for 15 years from 1930 to 1945. The U.S. Coast Guard took over operation of the lighthouse from the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1939. Mr. Trittinger and his family were responsible for lushly landscaping the grounds. The lighthouse has been automated since 1971.
The Point Vicente Lighthouse is open for tours on the second Saturday of each month, except for the month of March when it is opened on the first Saturday in conjunction with the City of Rancho Palos Verdes' Whale of a Day Festival. The hours are 10am to 3pm PST.
For more history see HISTORY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES