The site for the Santa Barbara Lighthouse was selected so that the light could serve the double purpose of a sea coast light and a harbor light. In early 1856, George Nagle of San Francisco arrived in Santa Barbara with his family to build the lighthouse on a mesa roughly two miles west of the harbor. Similar in design to most of the early west coast lighthouses, the Santa Barbara Lighthouse was of the Cape Cod style, with the tower projecting from the middle of the gabled roof.
Nagle, who received $8,000 for his work, used Indian labor and mostly local material to finish the lighthouse within the year. On December 1, 1856, a fixed red light was displayed from a fourth-order Fresnel lens.
The first keeper at the station was Albert Williams. After four years, he grew tired of the lighthouse routine and tried his had at farming nearby. When his replacement left in 1865, the position was again offered to Williams. He declined, but his wife Julia accepted. Since the station did not have a fog signal, Julia was able to maintain the light by herself, while raising three boys and two girls.
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