In 1873 the United States Congress granted fifteen thousand dollars for the
construction of a steam fog-signal at Point Montara (Public Acts of the Forty-Second
Congress, Third Session). The fog signal was first established in 1875 to guide
sailors through the heavy fog that contributed to many shipwrecks in the area.
The steam whistle was the third fog signal operating on the coast of California.
A light, created from a red lens lantern that hung from a post, was first established
in 1900. A fourth-order Fresnel lens was brought onsite in 1912 and a skeleton
tower made of wood was built to hold it. That tower was replaced in 1928 with
a 30-foot tall steel tower and octagonal cast iron lantern, giving the lighthouse
a focal plane of 70 feet above sea level. The light was automated in 1970 and
the Fresnel lens was replaced with a smaller, modern optic. This light is still
active today and is leased for use as a hostel by American Youth Hostels, Inc.