Point Loma History

Point Loma — or Punta de la Loma de San Diego, the Hill Point of Saint Diego — is a site of surpassing beauty and historical significance. Jutting southward into the Pacific Ocean, the wooded peninsula shelters the mouth of the San Diego Bay, creating the perfect site for early settlement on the West Coast.

 

On September 28, 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his small Spanish expedition docked at Point Loma and disembarked, becoming the first Europeans to set foot on California soil. As such, Point Loma is often described as “where California began.” Even before its European discovery, Point Loma fulfilled an important role. Though it lacked the fresh water to sustain any permanent indigenous settlements, local populations of coastal Kumeyaay Native Americans visited the peninsula to harvest lobsters, mussels, clams, abalone and other seafood.

 

Despite Cabrillo describing it as “a very good enclosed port” in his report, it was to be 200 years before a permanent European settlement graced the San Diego Bay. Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first of California’s 21 Franciscan missions, wasn’t established until 1769. But the mission wasn’t the true seed of present-day San Diego. No, the city’s roots came in the form of a port, known simply as La Playa, also established in 1769. Its significance as a commercial anchorage would shape the future of San Diego.  

 

Nestled on a bayside beach in Point Loma, La Playa was a trade hub that connected nautical and overland trade routes. The historic La Playa Trail, the oldest European trial on the West Coast, linked settled inland regions with this commercial harbor. A portion of this trail still exists today as Rosecrans Boulevard.

 

San Diego’s long-standing military associations began in Point Loma in 1852. Part of the Peninsula was set aside for military use, and a series of coastal artilleries was erected in the area. In 1901, the Navy Coaling Station was built in Point Loma. The San Diego Naval Training Center was constructed 22 years later in what is now Liberty Station, establishing the area as a naval hub.

Point Loma was also influential in San Diego’s music and culture in the early 20th century. The Greek Theater, perched atop the hilltop known as Lomaland, was a hub of art and performance from 1900 to 1920. Point Loma also fed into San Diego’s aeronautical scene: it’s where Charles Lindbergh tested his famous craft, the Spirit of St. Louis.  

 

Today, Point Loma is known for its scenic views of the ocean, downtown, and the San Diego bay.” It’s also home to some of San Diego’s most iconic landmarks, including the Cabrillo National Monument and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. With easy access to the beaches, the Bay and downtown, Point Loma is among San Diego’s premier destinations. Much of Point Loma’s charm can be found in its individual neighborhoods and communities.