Point Fermin, named after a Franciscan friar, sits at the
southernmost tip of Los Angeles. The lighthouse was built in
response to a growing need for a lighthouse to mark the
growing harbor in San Pedro Bay. Harbor development began in
the 1830's. It was not until 1872 that a site was selected
for the lighthouse - a one hundred foot cliff overlooking the
ocean. The Victorian structure was completed in 1874,
and lit on December 15 - the same day as its twin at
With the completion of the LA Harbor lighthouse in 1913,
the importance of Pt. Fermin diminished. In 1927, the Los
Angeles City Recreation and Parks Department assumed care of
the station, opened the grounds for use as a park. The
lighthouse was used as residence for the superintendent. The
lighthouse was at this point powered by electricity.
During World War II, the lantern was removed and replaced by
a lookout tower. The locals dubbed this "the chicken coop."
A steel tower with an automatic light replaced the lookout
after the war.
The first and last lighthouse keepers at Point Fermin were women.
Mary and Helen Smith kept the light from 1874 to 1882.
(Mary is listed as the official keeper.) Thelma Austin assumed
her father's position as keeper in 1925
when both of her parents passed away. She served until the
light was blacked out during World War II.
Restoration efforts were spurred on in the 1960's by Coast
Guard plans to tear down the lighthouse. San Pedro residents
William Olesen and John Olguin spearheaded the restoration of
the lighthouse to its original appearance, based upon
blueprints provided by the Coast Guard.
The lighthouse was used by park personnel.
Today, the surrounding area is
Point Fermin Park. The park is the home of numerous
(mostly black) cats!
In 2002, the lighthouse underwent a major restoration.
on November 1, 2003 the Department of Recreation and Parks opened
the lighthouse to the public. The non-profit
Point Fermin Lighthouse Society provides tours of the
lighthouse. In 2005, the lighthouse celebrated its 130th
Umbrella Guide to California Lighthouses (2nd ed.), Nelson pp. 16-20
Women Who Kept the Lights, Clifford pp. 109-110
The Keeper's Log Winter 2004, Summer 2004, Winter 2005, Spring 2005
Lighthouse Digest July 2006