The area in Southern California known as San Pedro saw Spanish use dating back to the 1540s. Once a separate township, it’s now part of Los Angeles. After the Mexican-American War, San Pedro’s harbor was expanded and improved. Congress appropriated funds for a lighthouse at Point Fermin, San Pedro’s southernmost point, in 1854. The light began service on December 15, 1874.
Point Fermin had the distinction of having two women –sisters Mary and Ella Smith — serve as the first keeper and assistant. The light was converted to electricity in 1924. The City of Los Angeles took over the property, with a city employee living in the lighthouse as caretaker. The light was darkened after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and it was never reactivated as an aid to navigation.
The lighthouse is now the centerpiece of 37-acre Point Fermin Park. The facility is managed by the Department of Recreation and Parks for the City of Los Angeles. The Point Fermin Lighthouse Society serves to assist with fundraising, tours, events, and volunteers. There are two guests in this episode. Kristen Heather is the historic site curator, and Jeanette Rodriquez is a museum guide at the lighthouse.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org