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Feature Stories

L.A. Angel's Gate Restored

From Issue: Volume XX - Number 23
11/16/2012


By Kirt Ramirez

It’s not something the average person sees every day. In fact, most people probably have never seen it before. But it exists and its light has guided people for generations. Now the Angel’s Gate Lighthouse is shining brighter than ever.

After years of neglect, faded paint, rust, cracks and holes, the 99-year-old light tower got a $1.8 million facelift and restoration was completed earlier this year. Now anyone entering or leaving Los Angeles Harbor will see a clean, white, cylindrical lighthouse with black vertical stripes standing proud.

A long breakwater of rocks and boulders stretches out about two miles from the shore of Cabrillo Beach into the cold Pacific – where at the very end – the stately structure exists.

“This historic lighthouse has marked the entrance to the port since 1913. The breakwater is 9,250 feet long and contains nearly three million tons of rock brought over from Santa Catalina Island,” according to SanPedro.com.

“Designed differently than any other California lighthouse, Angel’s Gate is situated on a forty-foot concrete square. Built to withstand rough seas, the framework is structural steel, with steel plates to the second floor.”

The website adds, “The lighthouse is so well-constructed that, after a five-day storm in 1939 sent violent seas smashing into the building, the 73-foot Romanesque tower leaned slightly toward shore, but still stood defiantly, as it does to this day.”

A foghorn blasts two notes every 30 seconds and a green light rotates regularly for Mariners entering Angel’s Gate, the site says.
The lighthouse became fully automated in 1971, according to California’s Inventory of Historic Light Stations, which lists the monument as Los Angeles Harbor Light but says it was originally known as San Pedro Harbor Light. Therefore the need for keepers was eliminated. Today solar power feeds the two-story tower.

The lighthouse can be seen from aboard the Catalina Express as it whisks by on it its way to Avalon or Two Harbors from San Pedro, since that location leaves via Los Angeles Harbor. But Long Beach goes to Avalon and exits through a different route and does not pass by Angel’s Gate.

Sometimes the whale watching boats in Long Beach will pass by Angel’s Gate if there are blue or grey whales out near San Pedro. Another way to see the lighthouse is by personal boat or to visit Cabrillo Beach and see the tower from a distance.

A U.S. Coast Guard official for the San Pedro area warned that people should not walk on the breakwater to get a close-up look of the lighthouse, as they can fall and hit their head. Also, the jetty is federally-protected and trekking the long journey out to sea is not advisable or allowed. Angel’s Gate Lighthouse is not open to the public.

kirt@longbeachcomber.com