Cabrillo National Monument is a park located at the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula. With the Old Point Loma Lighthouse serving as its primary landmark, the park offers stunning views of the San Diego harbor and coastline.

History Of Cabrillo National Monument

The park commemorates the landing of Iberian explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. This landing was the first time a European expedition had ever made it to what is now the west coast of the United States. 

Due to the historical significance of the site, the monument would later be registered as California Historical Landmark #56 in 1932 and listed on the National Register of Historical Places on October 15, 1966. 

A statue of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo was originally commissioned by Woodrow Wilson to be built by the Order of Panama, but the Order became defunct by 1926 before the statue was made. Calvin Coolidge subsequently authorized the Native Sons of the Golden West to create a monument, but was also unable to proceed. 

Eventually, the Portuguese government was able to commission and donate a statue of Cabrillo to the U.S. government in 1939, sculpted by Alvaro de Bree. The statue was finally placed in the monument a decade later after a number of challenges, and was replaced in 1988 by a limestone replica due to the extreme weathering the original had suffered through the years. 

The area was used for gliding from 1929 up until 1935. Its high cliffs and seaside winds made it conducive for the various iterations of the sport. Different markers can be found near the entrance of the monument for various gliding accomplishments made in the monument, including the first hour-long sailplane flight and a 15-hour-long endurance flight in 1930. The monument is also recognized as a National Soaring Landmark by the National Soaring Museum. 

Iconic Sights

The monument is home to a few noteworthy points of interest. It contains two different lighthouses, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the New Point Loma Lighthouse. 

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse was originally constructed in 1854 and finished in November of the following year after the area was selected as an ideal location to place navigational aids in 1851. The actual lighting apparatus only arrived from France a year later, however, and the oil lamp was lit for the first time on November 15, 1855. 

For the next thirty-six years, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse served as a beacon for ships visiting California waters. The exception would be during foggy nights, as the extreme height of the lighthouse brought its light into the heavy clouds, where it would be too obscured to be useful.

In 1891, the old lighthouse’s light was extinguished permanently and the lighthouse was boarded up. It was replaced by the New Point Loma Lighthouse, which is still an active light to this day. It is located at a lower elevation, about a hundred yards south of the old lighthouse. The old lighthouse’s light was lit for the first time in 93 years in 1984 to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the monument.

The park has a visitor center as well. This center serves as a place to purchase souvenirs, as well as a place to learn about the park’s history. Visitors can interact with park rangers and volunteers to learn about the area, get their National Park Passport stamped, visit the Age of Exploration exhibit, and learn about the schedule of the various tours and auditorium showings. The auditorium has several showings every day, presenting films about the monument’s history.

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