Landscape: Cabrillo National Monument Lighthouse in the Spring

Cabrillo Lighthouse

This was the first lighthouse on the west coast. It was lit in 1855 and extinguished in 1891. During those 36 years of active “lighthousing” several different families lived in this house.

They lived with their families and chickens, goats, cows and gardens. They were isolated several miles from the “town” of San Diego. I read an account about a couple of kids who lived there that had to row their boat across the harbor to go to school in Old Town. Imagine the sight of tall ships coming in from the west full of exotic spices/fruits and people. What a different time! The silence must have been incredible. 

Running the oil fueled glass and brass lamp was a full-time job for two people. Usually a husband and wife. They had to trim the wick, clean the glass parts from the soot and keep the oil reservoir filled. They wore uniforms too. I saw photographs of the families and old Captain Isreal was shown wearing his lighthouse clothing.    

The old Fresnel lamp is on display. It is an impressively large (8 foot tall) fixture. It fascinated me that it was ground, polished and assembled by hand back in the 1850’s. There is a new lamp on display too, it’s a simple plastic looking thing. Not nearly as sexy as the old one.

Now all of the lighthouses in California are computer controlled at a single location. Probably by a guy in his underwear watching TV. All of the romance, mystique and labor removed by technology. Are we better off?

Back in the day

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