If you’ve ever been to Catalina, you’ve probably passed the Angel’s Gate Lighthouse. She stands at the end of the San Pedro jetty, which is actually made of rocks quarried from Catalina Island and extends 9,250 feet from the shores of San Pedro at Cabrillo Beach. It was originally put into service in 1913.
She’s not as quaint as many other lighthouse, just a squat Romanesque looking thing, made of steel with a multi-sided base and a twelve sided column where the light sits. She’s also doesn’t look to be in great shape. The steel plates on the first two levels that give her strength are now rusting and of course she’s been listing for years from strong storms that have battered her. I’ve seen her light often from the Cabrillo Beach as I park for my Tuesday night classes at the aquarium. The light was originally white, but the captains complained as Los Angeles grew that there was too much ambient light behind it to make it out, so it was changed to green. It’s the only green beacon in Southern California.
You can walk out on the jetty to the lighthouse itself, but it’s a rather perilous journey if the seas aren’t calm, as the jetty is not that high and there are many jumbles of boulders along the way. At 9,250 long, that’s 1.75 miles. Your best bet is to catch sight of it by boat – Spirit Cruises out of Ports ‘o Call runs many harbor cruises (and whalewatching cruises will take you by it as well) and the San Pedro Catalina Express passes by it, too.
Angel’s Gate once had a sister house http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=154″>in Galveston, TX, but that was destroyed by a storm in 2000. It’s hard to believe that people used to live in lighthouses such as this. It’s not that big and of course it’s isolated out in the entrance to the harbor. Even the land-based lighthouse keepers found it to be a lonely existence and keepers were a special sort of person. Here’s a little perspective of how tiny it is compared to the big ocean.
We’re rather lucky here in Southern California to have so many lighthouses, there are less than 1,500 operational ones worldwide and in one day you can visit: Pt. Fermin is a Victorian structure that looks more like a house with a large tower than the lonely windswept lighthouses you may have seen elsewhere. It’s also our oldest, put into service in 1874. Pt. Vicente is more in keeping with the white plaster tower archetype. This 67 foot tower is easily spotted from sea high during daylight hours on the bluff on the Palos Verdes Peninsula by boaters in Santa Monica Bay and passing by.
As a long-time resident of Los Angeles, it wasn’t until the past two years since I joined up as a whalewatching docent that I’ve really explored our harbors and bluffs. It’s easy to get caught up in the bustle and “history” of Hollywood and Santa Monica and the beauty of Malibu and Pt. Dume and miss out on the parts that San Pedro, Long Beach and the Palos Verdes Peninusula have played in the evolution of Los Angeles as we know it.