The Lindbergh Beacon

January 20, 2015
Los Angeles City Hall Hunter Kerhart

Our year began with a fun personal project – the Lindbergh Beacon. When we heard the news that it would be lighted for the 12 days of Christmas (nice move, Mayor Garcetti), we rushed out to capture one of the coolest historic features of downtown. Between out-of-town trips, scheduling new jobs and battling this never-ending cough, things have been a little delayed around here, but we’re finally back to our regular schedule. So, without further ado, here it is:

Lindbergh Beacon-Hunter Kerhart 4

Lindbergh Beacon-Hunter Kerhart 2

City Hall 4

Lindbergh Beacon-Hunter Kerhart 3

City Hall 1951

City Hall 1951


The Lindbergh Beacon was lit for the first time by President Calvin Coolidge when City Hall was completed in 1928. It was installed after photographer George Watson suggested the city honor aviator Charles Lindbergh, who flew across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. L.A.’s civic leaders followed suit, taking into consideration that Lindbergh had suggested they contribute to the advancement of aviation rather than award him with gifts for his achievement.

The 1,000-watt light rotated atop City Hall, shining as far as Pomona and Santa Monica. After the federal Department of Commerce received complaints that the brightness of the light was more of a hazard than the 27-story structure it sat upon, the light was changed from white to red. For nearly two decades, the light served as a guide for pilots, residents, and tourists alike, putting downtown L.A. on their radar.

When World War II began, the beacon went dark to avoid drawing attention to enemy aircraft. In 1947, it was turned off for good and placed in storage in the basement of City Hall for over 50 years. Though out of sight, the Lindbergh Beacon had not been forgotten. Thanks to some digging by TV personality Huell Howser, the beacon was dusted off and displayed at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX in the late ’90s. After City Hall was refurbished in 2001, the beacon was returned to its rightful place and ran periodically for special occasions.

Seeing the sparkling white beam in conjunction with City Hall’s architectural lights looked spectacular. We spent quite some time sitting in Grand Park, wishing the beacon would shine all year long, but until next Christmas . . .

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  • Reply Martin Turnbull January 26, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    I knew about that beacon, but had no idea it had an actual name, let alone that it was still around and in working order! Thanks for such an interesting post.

    • Reply South On Spring January 28, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks, Martin! Oddly enough, I’ve known about it for quite some time but only saw it in working order for the first time this year. Hopefully the photos will suffice until they turn it on again.

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