The Point Fermin Lighthouse

The Point Fermin Lighthouse is different from most other lighthouses on the California coast. Instead of standing like a lonely pillar, Point Fermin’s light is part of a Victorian-style house. Point Fermin is one of only six lighthouses ever built in this design and one of three still standing (the others are East Brother in the San Francisco Bay and Hereford Light in New Jersey).

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Point Fermin Lighthouse was the first one built in the San Pedro Bay. British explorer George Vancouver named it in honor of Father Fermin de Lasuen, who was father-president of the California missions when Vancouver visited in 1792. The site overlooks the modern-day Port of San Pedro.

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Built in 1874, the Point Fermin Lighthouse was the first navigational light into the San Pedro Bay. Phineas Banning, with the support of many local businessmen, petitioned the Federal Government and the US lighthouse Board to place a lighthouse on the point in 1854. Although the Lighthouse Board agreed funding and land disputes delayed its construction until 1874.

The lighthouse was staffed by federal employees under the Treasury Department and regulated by the US Lighthouse Board. These employees were called Lighthouse Keepers. It was their job to keep the light lit as a beacon for ships, maintain the lighthouse lens, and the general up-keep of the building. Point Fermin’s first lighthouse keepers were women. Mary and Ella Smith came from a lighthouse family and their brother Victor, a Washington Territory customs officer, was no doubt influential in getting them their positions. Why they chose to come to Point Fermin is still a mystery, as the area was quite isolated and barren. In any event, they seemed to get along just fine in their positions for nearly eight years.

SAM_0044-001After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the light was blacked out for the rest of World War II. During that time, it served the US Navy as a lookout tower and signaling station for ships coming into the harbor. Point Fermin was never a working lighthouse again after that.

IMG_0277-001Unlike the nearby Point Vicente Lighthouse, which is haunted by a woman longing for her lost husband, this lighthouse appears to be haunted by the inverse, a lonely male lighthouse keeper carrying the torch (literally and figuratively) for his dead wife. When he passed away in October of 1925 (a couple of months after his wife died), the local papers reported he died of a broken heart. Two months after his death, the lighthouse was decommissioned and the grounds turned into a public park. Not only was he the last man to hold that job, some say he never left, and is still seen (and heard) carrying out his duties, walking around the lighthouse and the lens house.

Interestingly, the ghostly keeper may not be alone there with his feelings of loneliness, sadness, and regret. The adjacent cliff is well known in the area as a favorite spot for suicides (with stories of ghostly figures walking along the cliff’s edge or the rocks below.)

SAM_0029-001In the last two decades, a number of people have fallen to their deaths in tragic accidents and suicides, their bodies discovered far below on jagged rocks at the ocean’s edge. Some who plummeted off the cliffs have survived their falls. Some were victims of gang violence; other cases remain shrouded in mystery.

For as long as San Pedrans can remember, the stark beauty of the Point Fermin cliffs has drawn photographers, model plane enthusiasts and wedding planners. Its’ vistas are known the world over.

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(Point Fermin Park was also the site of the great UFO attack of 1942, but that’s another story for another time…)

If you’re already in the area be sure to visit the Point Vicente Lighthouse 8 miles up the road. The views alone are worth the drive!

 

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Is there a creature in Lake Elsinore?

Originally known as Laguna Grande by early Spanish explorers, Lake Elsinore has a rich history in the region, used as a rest stop to camp and water animals for trappers, prospectors of the Gold Rush, and for the great explorer of the Wild West, John Charles Frémont.

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Naples Island, Long Beach

This Italian-inspired Long Beach community was developed in the early 1900’s as the “Dreamland of Southern California” and consists of three islands filled with narrow streets and walkways, canals, beautiful houses and boats, a plaza with a water fountain, excellent shopping and restaurants on nearby 2nd Street. This seaside neighborhood boasts picturesque bridges reminiscent of Italy’s Mediterranean shore: Naples.

Today it’s known as 2nd Street in Naples & Belmont Shore, and it has become a thriving shopping and dining district that connects downtown Long Beach with its very own coastal – beach regions to the south.

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The haunting history of Ortega Highway

A scenic road winding through mountains, pine forests and pastoral valleys, connecting South County and Lake Elsinore, is a crucial link for commuters, and a weekend thrill ride for motorcyclists, and also a dumping ground used by criminals who wait for the cover of night. It is the stuff of mystery novels, a place where people with secrets push them over steep cliffs or bury them under a thick layer of brush.

The 44-mile Ortega Highway is a twisting two-lane stretch that connects Riverside and Orange counties via the Cleveland National Forest — and it has a killer reputation.

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The Pirate’s Tower

California’s Laguna Beach, usually brings to mind images of modern mansions and sunny, sandy shores, so finding a relatively hidden gem like this was exciting. It is quite hidden and hard to get to. First thing you have to accomplish is finding a parking space, and then you need to locate these isolated stairs that lead down to the secluded beach.

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The history of Crystal Cove State Park

Orange County may not be known for its hiking, mountain biking and other outdoor adventures, but the free-spirited outdoorsman/woman knows much better. I’ve been exploring Orange County for two years and have never found myself unsatisfied by all of its opportunities.

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Abalone Sea Cave & Portuguese Bend Palos Verdes

Smoke from fires set by Native Americans, hunting game on the hillsides overlooking San Pedro Bay, inspired Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo to name this natural harbor Bahia de los Fumos or “Bay of Smokes.”

On October 8, 1542, when Cabrillo noted in his log that the bay “is an excellent harbor and the country is good with many plains and groves of trees,” this indented coastline was little more than swampy marshland. Though the expedition did not go on land during their brief visit, they did speak with a group of Gabrielinos in a canoe, who told them there were other white men in the interior (probably survivors of the ill-fated Coronado expedition). Over the next century, other European explorers infrequently skirted Palos Verdes shores, leading natives to tell tales of the ominous “great houses on the sea.”

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